From Europe to the U.S., Monsanto has really been working hard to stay in the news lately. With that said, the contexts could not be more different. The EU has been actively fighting genetically modified crops, and two weeks ago a French court found Monsanto guilty for its products’ role in the chemical poisoning of a farmer. In the United States, on the other hand, Monsanto is unsurprisingly coming out on top. This week a federal judge dismissed OSGATA et al vs. Monsanto, effectively ruling in favor of the corporation.
The lawsuit, filed by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and over 80 other organizations, was drawn up in an effort to curb the corporation’s own enthusiasm for suing farmers who are found to be growing Monsanto-patented crops without paying royalties. The plaintiffs in OSGATA et al vs. Monsanto sought to protect organic farmers from being sued by Monsanto in the event that their fields are unintentionally cross-pollinated with genetic material from neighboring farms growing Monsanto crops.
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According to Reuters, the corporation has nearly 150 such lawsuits on record – nonetheless, presiding Federal District Judge Naomi Buchwald not only dismissed the case on the grounds that Monsanto has not yet sued any of the plaintiffs, but also chastised said plaintiffs for their "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists." Monsanto expressed satisfaction at the ruling:
"This decision 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," said Monsanto general counsel David Snively.
"This ruling tore down a historic myth, which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified."
OGSATA and its contemporaries, on the other hand, are not as pleased with the verdict:
"Her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing," said [lead attorney for the plaintiffs Daniel] Ravicher. "Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers."
But even though judgment has been passed, organic farmers aren’t taking it lying down. The Los Angeles Times reports that OGSATA President Jim Gerritsen already has plans to fight the verdict through an appeal, and has secured the support of more than 80 other organizations in the endeavor. “The situation that brought us to court is still there,” he told reporters. “Farmers need the protection of the court.” Only time will tell if a different judge will feel the same.