The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a group of farmers the right to challenge Monsanto's seed patents, a decision critics charge allows the biotech giant's "reign of intimidation" to continue.
The plaintiffs in the suit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, sought to protect themselves from lawsuits by the corporation for patent infringement should Monsanto's genetically engineered seed contaminate the farmers' crops.
Monsanto has sued over 100 farmers for patent infringement.
Jim Gerritsen, president of lead plaintiff OSGATA, previously explained, "We are not customers of Monsanto. We don't want their seed. We don't want their gene-spliced technology. We don't want their trespass onto our farms. We don't want their contamination of our crops. We don't want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice."
Their case was dismissed in February 2012 by Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald, but attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation [which is representing the plaintiffs] said, "The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto's patents."
In July of 2012 the group filed an appeal to reverse the lower court's decision.
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In June of 2013, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dealt the farmers a blow in dismissing the case.
"In light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than one percent," Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Monday. But the Supreme Court's decision is "disappointing," Ravicher said, and "it should not be misinterpreted as meaning that Monsanto has the right to bring such suits."
"This high court which...under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto."
—Jim Gerritsen, OSGATAOrganic dairy farmer and plaintiff Rose Marie Burroughs of California Cloverleaf Farms adds that "GMO contamination levels can easily rise above 1% and then we would have zero protection from a costly and burdensome lawsuit."
OSGATA's Gerritsen slammed the Court's decision as putting a "notorious patent bully" above family farmers.
"The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in," stated Gerritsen. "The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However, their safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families."
"This high court which gave corporations the ability to patent life forms in 1980, and under Citizens United in 2010 gave corporations the power to buy their way to election victories, has now in 2014 denied farmers the basic right of protecting themselves from the notorious patent bully Monsanto," Gerritsen stated.
Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, another plaintiff in the case, added, "Once again, America's farmers have been denied justice, while Monsanto's reign of intimidation is allowed to continue in rural America."