Enough is enough said a group of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations on whose behalf the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed a suit this past Tuesday against Monsanto Company. Unlike previous challenges to the genetically modified regime, which were aimed at forcing government agencies to comply with federal laws, this lawsuit strikes at the heart of Monsanto’s stronghold: patents. The lawsuit effectively takes on Monsanto’s patents and asks a Federal court to invalidate them. Furthermore, plaintiffs ask the Court to declare that Monsanto cannot sue organic farmers should the company’s transgenic seed land on their property.
Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York aptly pointed out:
It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.
In demonstrating why Monsanto’s patents should be held invalid, the complaint coherently lays out many, if not most, of the concerns that consumers, advocates and organic trade groups and businesses have regarding GMOs.
And there are plenty of them.
Organic and non-transgenic farmers do not want them because transgenic seed contaminates and eventually overcomes organic seed which lowers the price of crop and could cause certified organic farmers to lose their USDA NOP Organic Certification. Furthermore, domestically and internationally, transgenic contamination can result in shipping and import bans.
Farmers are also concerned about being investigated and/or sued by Monsanto for contamination of their product with the Big M’s transgenic seeds and opportunities for cross contamination abound.
Nontransgenic crops are vulnerable to contamination by transgenic seed at almost every step of the production process: before seed is purchased; through seed drift or scatter; through cross-pollination; through commingling via tainted equipment during harvest or post harvest activities; during processing; during transportation; and during storage. (Compliant, ¶88).
Furthermore, consumers are wary of GMOs, and at a minimum want GMOs labeled, because of the many adverse health concerns associated with GMOs. For example, the glyphosate resistance conferred by Monsanto’s GM seeds has increased the presence of the herbicide in the environment. Glyphosate has been associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple mylenoma, DNA damage or immune suppression. Furthermore, some studies, “conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals.” There are also unresolved questions as to whether GMOs are safe to eat because, despite all the noise about GMOs being approved by government agencies, independent studies verifying GMOs safety have yet to be performed.
The complaint also cites Prof. Emeritus Don M. Huber’s study which suggested that GMOs contain an organism that could cause miscarriages in farm animals. Earlier this year, prior to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of GE alfalfa, Huber wrote a letter asking the Ag. Secretary to delay the approval until further research. Huber’s letter urged, “I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high-risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.”
USDA approved GE alfalfa without any restrictions.
Monsanto’s reaction, predictably, is to deny the validity of the lawsuit. The company’s press release found the allegations to be “false, misleading and deceptive”. The company’s own credibility, however, is non-existent because it denies and blocks any access to information that would allow independent scientists to test the company products and claims. “As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology.” (Complaint ¶98, citation omitted). For all we know, everything claimed to be safe about GMOs could in fact be false, misleading and deceptive.
What cannot be denied, however, is that many of the promises championed by the likes of Monsanto failed to deliver. Increase in yield? NO. Less pesticide use? NO. In fact, what growers have witnessed is an epidemic of superweeds as a result of unrestricted and unregulated use of glyphosate.
Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff California Cloverleaf Farms, commenting on the lawsuit, said:
The devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation. Nature, farming and health are all being affected by GMO contamination. We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty.