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Supreme Court Protects Monsanto's Right to Sue Family Farms


Monsanto, the biotech seed and chemical giant, received protection on its genetically modified seed patents in a recent decision by the Supreme Court that upheld the company's right to sue farmers.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case from a group of organic farmers and activists who filed a suit against Monsanto in March 2011. The group filed the suit to protect farmers who are targeted by Monsanto and sued if their fields contain any of the biotech company’s genetically modified traits, even by accident, reports Reuters. "The suit sought to prohibit the company from suing farmers whose fields became inadvertently contaminated with corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and other crops containing Monsanto's genetic modifications."

Plaintiffs included The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association as well as dozens of organic and conventional family farmers, seed companies and advocacy organizations. Reuters reports that the group asked Monsanto for a pledge not to sue, but the company refused, saying: "A blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners' organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional infringement."

Monsanto has already successfully sued more than 100 farmers over patent infringement issues "winning judgments against those found to have made use of its seed without paying required royalties."

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association President Jim Gerritsen said the decision was a disappointment; "The Supreme Court failed to grasp the extreme predicament family farmers find themselves in," said Gerritsen, a Maine organic seed farmer. "The Court of Appeals agreed our case had merit. However, ... safeguards they ordered are insufficient to protect our farms and our families."

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