Farms

In efforts to protect themselves and their farms from a potential legal backlash by Monsanto, more than 300,000 individuals and family farms have taken “preventative” legal action against the multinational GMO seed and chemical company, which has a history of suing farmers for patent infringement.

The group filed a legal brief with the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. on July 5th hoping to reverse a lower court ruling earlier this year that dismissed the group’s attempt to seek protection from Monsanto. The group claims that Monsanto routinely targets farmers who’ve been the victims of crop drift—genetically modified seeds from other farms pollinating on their property—which can land the farmers in a legal tangle over patent infringement of Monsanto’s seeds. Monsanto has brought suit against hundreds of farmers and settled with hundreds more out of court.

In a statement, Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots farming community and co-plaintiff in the suit, said,  “It’s time to end Monsanto’s scorched earth legal campaign of threats and intimidation against America’s farmers. Family farmers should be protected by the courts against the unwanted genetic contamination of their crops.”

Seeds and pollen can drift as far as 15 miles from a farm, which puts both conventional and certified organic farmers at risk of Monsanto’s lawyers, and contamination that can turn non-GMO crops into transgenic crops (when genetically engineered DNA comingles with non-GMO DNA). A GMO or transgenic contamination can be difficult to pinpoint and rectify at the expense of the farmer.

Back in February, the district court agreed with Monsanto that the plaintiffs’ claims were “unrealistic,” and “there has been no injury traceable to defendants.” But it hasn’t stopped the plaintiffs. According to Murphy, “No company should be allowed to violate the property rights of America’s farmers or threaten their livelihoods through the use of frivolous patent infringement lawsuits designed to control farmers and the food supply, while protecting Monsanto’s flawed seed technology and corporate profits.”

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Image: Linda Cronin