On a day that 'Occupy' groups, environmental and food justice organizations have called for a global day of action to resist corporate control of the food system, news comes that a federal judge has ruled in favor of seed giant Monsanto Co. in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations challenging the company's seed patents.
U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald, for the Southern District of New York, threw out the case brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations, criticizing the groups for a “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.” [...]
Daniel Ravicher, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said farmers stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto and the court's refusal to protect those farmers was a mistake.
“Her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing,” said 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.”
Reacting to the today's decision, Maine organic seed farmer and President of lead plaintiff OSGATA Jim Gerritsen stated:
"Family farmers need the protection of the court. We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge's assertion that Monsanto's vague public relations 'commitment' should be 'a source of comfort' to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto. The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice."
Jim Gerritsen: "Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice."
And plaintiff and organic farmer Bryce Stephens of Kansas said of the decision:
"As a citizen and property owner, I find the Order by the Federal Court to be obsequious to Monsanto. The careless, inattentive, thoughtless and negligent advertisement Monsanto has published on their website to not exercise its patent rights for inadvertent trace contamination belies the fact that their policy is in reality a presumptuous admission of contamination by their vaunted product on my property, plants, seeds and animals."
Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, another plaintiff, said:
"Monsanto is the big biotechnology bully and has used the courts, for years, to intimidate farmers. The purpose of our lawsuit is to preemptively challenge its reign of intimidation over organic farmers, and others, who have chosen not to jump on their genetically engineered bandwagon."
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The Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA) explained the lawsuit against Monsanto background on its website:
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhatten on March 29, 2011, on behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed. On June 1, 2011, we amplified our OSGATA v. Monsanto complaint by bringing on an additional 23 Plaintiffs to bring the total to 83. Our plaintiff group now represents over 300,000 members.
Gerritsen joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March in December and explained the suit against Monsanto and why farmer control over seed is so important.
Occupy Our Food Supply
Today, however, food justice advocates are still resisting the control of the food system by a small number of corporations -- including Monsanto -- with a global day of action called Occupy Our Food Supply.
The call is facilitated by Rainforest Action Network and is supported by over 60 Occupy groups and over 30 organizations including Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farms Coalition and Pesticide Action Network.
Occupy Our Food Supply supporter Vandana Shiva writes today:
Monsanto and a few other gene giants are trying to control and own the world’s seeds through genetic engineering and patents. Monsanto wrote the World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty on Intellectual Property, which forces countries to patent seeds. As a Monsanto representative once said: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.”
They defined a problem, and for these corporate profiteers the problem was that farmers save seeds, making it difficult for them to continue wringing profits out of those farmers. So they offered a solution, and their solution was that seeds should be redefined as intellectual property, hence seed saving becomes theft and seed sharing is criminalized.
And last week Willie Nelson and Anna Lappé wrote in "Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply:"
Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.
What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.
To take part in the day of action, communities across the U.S. are planning community gardens, exchanging seeds and taking "Tours of Shame" featuring corporate food polluters in the community. And Occupy Wall Street food groups have organized a "Seed Ball Bike Ride."