Acat was let out of the bag last week when a long-simmering effort culminated in Public Patent Foundation’s filing of a complaint in New York Judge Naomi Buchwald’s U.S. District Court against Monsanto Company on behalf of 26 farmers, 12 seed businesses and 22 agriculture organizations representing thousands of this nation’s cultivators.
Monsanto, whose patented transgenic traits are currently inserted into 85-90% of all seeds sold in the US for soybean, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola, has long followed a pernicious practice of pressing patent infringement lawsuits against farmers whose crops are inadvertently contaminated by the company’s genes. The just-filed PUBPAT suit seeks to preemptively enjoin Monsanto from continuing this practice that adds insult to injury on farmers desperately trying to avoid GMO trespass in their crops. The most celebrated case of this kind was that of Canadian canola farmer-breeder, Percy Schmeiser, who battled the behemoth biotech concern all the way to that nation’s supreme court where he lost. Organic and non-GMO canola culture has become virtually extinct in all but North America’s most remote growing areas, unable otherwise to avoid significant contamination from Roundup Ready (RR) varieties.
Midwestern organic growers of corn and soybeans experience difficulty exporting their crops to nations demanding zero GMO tolerance, while our country’s domestic market averts its gaze in avoidance of this thorny issue for the time being. PUBPAT’s lead attorney, Dan Ravicher, cites a Justice Story’s 1817 decree that inventions cannot be patented if such are “injurious to the well-being, good policy or sound morals of society”. Dan’s argument for invalidating Monsanto Roundup Ready patents leans heavily on recently evolved glyphosate resistant superweeds, the herbicide’s demonstrated embryo toxicity, links to lymphomas and leukemia, as well as re-emerging soil-borne diseases in numerous crops. Further bolstering PUBPAT’s case is Monsanto’s failure to deliver on claims Roundup Ready technology would reduce pesticide use and increase yields. Herbicide applied to all RR crops, in just the first 13 years since their introduction, represents an increased 318 million pounds over that necessary had these been traditionally seeded acres.