from AlJazeera Website
to forego growing corn and soybeans
due to the "inevitable contamination that will
Monsanto has established a conveniently intimidating reputation as
"a ruthless prosecutor of non-GMO farmers" whose fields have been
"contaminated by their neighbours' genetically engineered crops"
Last week Monsanto announced staggering profits from 2012 to celebratory shareholders while American farmers filed into Washington, DC to challenge the Biotech giantís right to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsantoís seeds.
On January 10 oral arguments began before the U.S. Court of Appeals to decide whether to reverse the cases' dismissal last February.
Monsanto's earnings nearly doubled analysts' projections and its total revenue reached $2.94bn at the end of 2012. The increased price of Roundup herbicide, continued market domination in the United States and, perhaps most significant, expanded markets in Latin America are all contributing factors to Monsanto's booming business.
Exploiting their patent on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton, Monsanto asserts an insidious control of those agricultural industries in the US, effectively squeezing out conventional farmers (those using non-transgenic seeds) and eliminating their capacity to viably participate and compete on the market.
(Until the end of 2012, Monsanto was under investigation by the Department of Justice for violating anti-trust laws by practicing anticompetitive activities towards other biotech companies, but that investigation was quietly closed before the year's end.)
The seemingly modest objective of the current lawsuit, OSGATA et al vs. Monsanto, originally filed in March 2011, is to acquire legal protection for organic and conventional farmers from Monsanto's aggressive prosecution of inadvertent patent infringements. But the implications of the suit are momentous.
If the DC Court of Appeal reverses the dismissal, a process of discovery will be instigated that could unveil a reservoir of information, access to which Monsanto has withheld from public knowledge - both by not disclosing it and preventing independent research.
Monsanto's abuse of patents
Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against family farmers and settled 700 cases out of court.
Furthermore, food groups estimate that Monsanto investigates hundreds of farmers each year as potential culprits of patent infringement.
Victims of Monsanto's predatory lawsuits include farmers who used Monsanto seed but violated the licensing agreement, as well as those farmers who never had any intention of growing GE plants. OSGATA et al vs. Monsanto deals with the latter group and represents 31 farms and farmers, 13 seed-selling businesses, and 31 agricultural organizations that represent more than 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms or farmers.
Plaintiffs requested a declaratory judgment that would ensure Monsanto was not entitled to sue the plaintiffs for patent infringement.
Jim Gerritson, president of OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) and lead plaintiff in the case, explained to me that organic and non-GMO farmers are a,
Crops Suffer Severe Worm Damage
But the federal courts have always protected Monsanto's rights to profit via a patenting system that increasingly impinges on individual and market freedom, allowing Monsanto to abuse its patent rights.
In a natural alliance, OSGATA is represented by attorney Dan Ravicher and Public Patent Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating a just patent system that balances individual freedom and the ethical issuing of patents.
Monsanto has established a conveniently intimidating reputation as a ruthless prosecutor of non-GMO farmers whose fields have been contaminated by their neighbors' genetically engineered corn - either through cross-pollination or accidental seed mixing during harvest.
With these terrifying exemplars in mind, farmers have taken on the burden of preventing contamination by setting up buffer zones, conducting genetic testing and in some cases, giving up on planting the crop altogether.
By detailing how many conventional farmers have given up trying to grow certain crops, OSGATA's motion to appeal emphasizes the monopolization that has resulted from Monsanto's aggressive pursuit of patent infringement cases.
It is estimated that 88 percent of corn and 93 percent of soybeans are genetically modified, most of them by Monsanto.
Bryce Stephens, an organic farmer in the northwest of Kansas, is one of those farmers who have decided to forego growing corn and soybeans due to the inevitable contamination that will result.
As Gerritson described to me,
Monsanto knows that consumers won't voluntarily buy their products - a lesson they learned in Europe when GE foods there were required to be labeled as such.
In America, the company and its allies have spent millions to defeat local labeling initiatives, most recently in California.
But if the company successfully crowds out conventional farmers, Americans won't have a choice - with or without a label.
In spite of the creation of this dangerous monopoly, in February 2012, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald,
If the farmers' case is allowed to go forward, the very least that will happen is of supreme importance: that is, through the process of discovery the public will gain access to a trove of information that Monsanto has successfully stashed away.
Ravicher believes that it can then be established that the products Monsanto peddles are not healthy and, hence, are not for the good of society.
Quoting a 150-year-old case, Ravicher reminds us that,
It's clear that the movement to defeat Monsanto is growing.
Win or lose this round, the people are not giving up on taking down this monster.