Organic Farmers v. Monsanto: Things you should know

Dan Ravicher, attorney for the Organic growers, at a rally outside the courthouse

It has been widely reported in the last couple weeks that a Federal judge in New York City has thrown out the OSGATA v Monsanto case, where Organic farmers sued to protect themselves from patent infringement lawsuits by Monsanto. News sources such as the Capital Press printed headlines that read, “Monsanto Beats Organic Lawsuit”, and Monsanto strangely declared it “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”. Perhaps they forgot that their company was just sued by over 300,000 of those non-biotech farmers. In light of the sentiment that this lawsuit has been defeated, here are some things you need to know about the case:

1. It is not over yet. The plaintiffs have around 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal the federal judge’s decision, and Wild Garden Seed, for one, supports an appeal. Citing the failure of the judge to “address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and mischaracterize the Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing”(Enews Park Forest),  The attorney for the Organic growers side, Dan Ravicher of Public Patent Foundation, had this to say:

“While I have great respect for Judge [Naomi] Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing… Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonably 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.”

Occupy Wall Street joined Organic farmers outside the courthouse in January

2. Protecting farmers from the possibility of being sued by Monsanto for possessing their patented genetic material, inadvertently, is the main aim of the lawsuit, but it has some interesting, lesser-known arguments to defend this. Primarily, that “patents on transgenic seed fail to satisfy the requirement of both the Constitution and the Patent Act that only technology with a beneficial societal use may be patented” (OSGATA v Monsanto Complaint). Additionally, a patent must be “new and useful”, and “not injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society”. Ravicher argues that Monsanto has improperly used its patents, and that some of its patents should not be valid at all due to the failure to meet basic standards of patent law.

3. We have a great lawyer. Dan Ravicher is a leader in patent law reform, and is most recently well known for his work on the lawsuit challenging patented breast cancer genes, which resulted in the courts finding the patents invalid. Here is a video of him last year, explaining quite simply why Organic farmers do in fact have standing in the current OSGATA v. Monsanto case:

We Organic farmers are as diverse and resilient as the crops we grow in our fields, and those crops do not give up easily.

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