November 28, 2012 (6 years, 3 months ago)

Maine Farmers Get A Second Chance To Win Court War With Monsanto

© Natural News

The suit was filed by the  Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, an agricultural group based  in Washington, Maine, against St. Louis-based Monsanto and is slated to be heard  Jan. 10, 2013, at the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., court documents  said.
The organic seed growers association, as well as 82 additional  plaintiffs, sued Monsanto in March 2011 in federal district court in New York  over the validity of a number of patents the agri-giant holds for genetically  modified crops, the Bangor Daily News reported  recently.
‘Numerous legal and factual errors’
In addition,  the group is seeking protection from lawsuits in case Monsanto’s GM seeds  inadvertently contaminate their crops via natural causes like seed drift and  cross pollination, the paper said.
Despite their claims; however, U.S.  District Judge Naomi Buchwald in February dismissed the suit before it even went  to trial, ruling that plaintiffs’ claims of fearing patent infringement lawsuits  from Monsanto were not reasonable, adding that “these circumstances do not  amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable  to defendants.”
But Jim Gerritsen, a seed potato farmer who is president  of the Organic Seed Growers Association, told the paper the judge made  “numerous legal and factual errors” in deciding the case.
Bringing the  case before the federal appeals court will give  plaintiffs – represented pro bono by the nonprofit Public Patent Foundation  – a second chance to explain to the three-judge panel how “reversible errors  were committed” and why the cause should be permitted to continue, Gerritsen  said.
In addition to the association’s rebuttals, the appellate court  judges will also consider a pair of amicus briefs, one by 11 law professors and  the other by 14 nonprofit consumer food and safety nonprofits, which were filed  in support of the position taken by the association.
Gerritsen said two  of the three judges needed to side with his association in order to send the  case back to the lower court.
“We hope we are given a fair hearing by  honorable judges that will take [Judge Buchwald’s] ruling, critique it and put  it on a level field,” he told the paper.
Gerritsen said the case was  vitally important because it has implications regarding a farmer’s ability to  farm how they want without living in fear of being targeted by a huge agri-giant  like Monsanto, which he says has a 75-person in-house legal team that cannot be  matched by independent farmers. Gerritsen said  Monsanto has sued farmers 144 times, “and in each and every one they make the  farmer out to be the villain.”
Second chance to get it  right
“The fact is we are all at jeopardy, our livelihoods are at  stake,” he said, noting that Monsanto’s history is that of intimidating and  suing farms where GM crops have shown up.
“If Monsanto can gain ownership of our crops when they contaminate them, how can we possibly  continue farming?” Gerritsen said.
As is usually the case, Monsanto says  it’s blameless and that it is not its policy “to exercise [their] patent rights  where trace amounts of [their] see or traits are present in [a] farmer’s fields  as a result of inadvertent means,” court documents said, according to the  Bangor Daily News.
The paper said the 83 plaintiffs consist of  independent farmers, seed companies and agricultural associations around the  nation. Gerritsen said the plaintiffs represent about 300,000 people and some 25  percent of all certified organic farms in the U.S. and Canada.
Gerritsen  said now that another court date has been scheduled, he is working to  reestablish a fund to help compensate them financially for having to travel to  attend the court hearings.
“Farmers in general don’t get away from their  farms, so we will need all this time to just prepare a plan so the farmers can  get away and travel to Washington, D.C.,” Gerritsen said.