It was a hard loss for the organic farming community last week. Monsanto, the agricultural giant being sued on behalf of 300,000 growers, came out victorious when Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed a suit filed by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) that would have protected the rights of organic farmers against the mega-corporation.
“We were surely disappointed and let down by the ruling,” said Jim Gerritsen, organic farmer and president of OSGATA’s Board of Directors. “It’s a perversity of justice.”
Last month, we reported on this case, which involves OSGATA’s lawsuit against Monsanto’s right to enforce its seed patent laws. In her ruling, Judge Buchwald stated that the 144 patent-infringements brought against organic farmers by Monsanto since 1997 did not suggest “a reality of the threat of injury” to the organic industry.
But many organic farmers say that they are already feeling the pressure from Monsanto’s patent laws. The organization’s vice president, Bryce Stephens, has already had to give up growing organic corn and soybeans on his farm in Kansas for fear of litigation from Monsanto.
Organic farmers worry that their seeds will be inadvertently contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified (GMO) seeds (which are resistant to the company’s toxic herbicide Roundup) and they will no longer test as genetically organic, leading to the loss of buyers and potential bankruptcy.
“We believe we have a basic right to farm the way we want,” said Gerritsen. “As a seed grower facing competition from GMO seeds, even the most innocent farmer would go bankrupt. It’s our livelihood at jeopardy.”
While farmers have no defense against seed contamination, Monsanto is reserving the right to sue if their strains are found in farmers’ crops. In essence, Monsanto can litigate against the very farmers whose crops they could ruin. But Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, contested in a release that the ruling is “a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace.”