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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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OSGATA v. Monsanto: A Ruling for All Agriculture

It’s been a favorite theme on social media for months: “300,000 farmers sue Monsanto.” The lawsuit was filed by the Public Patent Foundation on behalf of The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and others. It sought to invalidate Monsanto’s patents because of alleged fears of Monsanto exercising its patent rights and suing farmers if crops were inadvertently cross-pollinated. Monsanto had said its longstanding practice had been not to do that in the few cases where it had happened.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York considered the facts and the arguments. And then the court dismissed the lawsuit.

Here’s some of what the court said:

  • There was no case or controversy in the matter because Monsanto had not taken any action or even suggested taking any action against any of the plaintiffs.
  • Monsanto had a long-standing public commitment that “it has never been, nor will it be, Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means.”
  • Plaintiffs’ allegations were “unsubstantiated … given that not one single plaintiff claims to have been so threatened.”
  • Plaintiffs had “overstate[d] the magnitude of [Monsanto’s] patent enforcement,” noting that Monsanto’s average of roughly 13 lawsuits per year “is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States, approximately two million.”

What does this mean?

The decision underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace.

The ruling tears down a commonly perpetuated myth about lawsuits against farmers, noting that such claims are unsubstantiated and unjustified.

And the ruling is clear: There is neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company’s patented seed products.

Monsanto has consistently said – and consistently practiced – the belief that all farmers should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice – whether that be organic, conventional or the improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems contribute to meeting the needs of consumers, and all three will continue to do so.

10 Responses to "OSGATA v. Monsanto: A Ruling for All Agriculture"

  1. A great decision and a great day for Monsanto. It is good to see the Courts act with care and be so reasonable. Do you know where we can access the actual court judgment? I assument it is publicly available.

    Reply
    • I have always been what people call a treehugger. I kept getting e mails about stop Monsanto from several groups. I started deleting them quite a while back when I replied to them saying “what can I do?” and the answer as always “donate to the cause”. What- no strategy meetings? No help the struggling farmers buy equipment or make mortgage payments if the crops failed? Nope, just pay the lobbyists.

      Reply
      • I’ve always been considered a bit of a tree hugger too by friends in college, etc. Love the environment. Sorry you haven’t found the right way to be involved. Personally, I feel I can do that at work, but I’ve also joined a CSA which is trying to purchase a larger farm and have done some volunteer work with various groups. There are some great individuals and organizations involved in making agriculture a better arena. Perhaps you could contact the farm bureau in your county or state to see if they know of groups that could benefit from your help. There is a lot to be done in agriculture and getting additional people engaged beneefits us all.

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  2. A ruling in favor of consumer and farmer choice alike – I am proud to see our courts make such a decision. And I am equally proud to see them reinforce the position that Monsanto supports the rights of all farmers and all consumers to choose the food and farming practices that they prefer. Truly a decision in which everyone wins! Not sure that happens very often, and we should celebrate it.

    Reply
  3. Good to see actual facts exposed rather than the frivolous and mis-leading information the flat-earth society types are fond of spreading to justify their fundraising and self interest.

    2 million farms and only 13 lawsuits a year? Sounds like the vast majority of farms either pay their royalties for access to good technology, or choose not to use it.

    Too bad there is a handful of thieves who give all farmers a bad name, and even worse that they are somehow recognized as “heroes” for stealing by the flat-earthers.

    Percy Shmeiser is fortunate he lives in the north american society with our law and punishment. If he lived in certain cultures he might have had his hands chopped off !

    Reply
  4. I found Judge Buchwald’s decision interesting reading- her writing is marvelously direct and pithy, and a refreshing antidote to the convoluted logic of the plaintiffs in this case.

    It is also interesting to see some of the responses in the media- with many papers quoting the “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.” e.g. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-monsanto-prevails-in-suit-brought-by-organic-growers-20120227,0,814254.story

    In contrast is the LA times story,
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/environment/la-me-gs-judge-throws-out-farmers-case-against-monsanto-20120227,0,5279762.story
    where the author parrots the claim that “there have been over a hundred such lawsuits, including several against farmers who proved they had no intention of using Monsanto genes”

    Good thing this columnist didn’t have Judge Buchwald for an editor…. “diaphanous allegations” was her term for these unsubstantiated claims.

    Reply
  5. Is there an RSS feed for this blog that I can’t find?

    Thanks!

    Fiona – See “subscribe to this blog” for feed information.

    Reply
  6. First off – I’m no expert. That said, this blog post may be true to some degree, but it neglects to point out that Monsanto still has the power – even if it doesn’t actually enforce its own patent on their seeds – to lay a lawsuit on a non-GMO seed grower who is surrounded by GMO seed growers. Now, they may not actually sue – but who know, 5 or 10 years from now? How will the commodity crop landscape change, and who is to say that Monsanto won’t drop a suit on an Organic grower in Iowa down the line? It’s simply a verbal handshake on Monsanto’s part, which is legally non-binding. In the end, if Monsanto wins this case, they’ll still wield the ability to threaten with a lawsuit – even if they don’t follow through. That threat alone can have huge ramifications on farmers the country over.

    Farmers should be able to grow non-GMO seed without feeling threatened. They should be able to save their seed without feeling threatened. That’s basic.

    Reply
    • Evan – thanks for your comment. The question is, would an organic soybean grower (that’s the crop we’re talking about here) have any reason to spray his crop with Roundup herbicide? That’s how this practice is typically uncovered — someone uses the GM seed without paying for it and then buys Roundup to spray his crop for weed control.

      We have said over and over again that we do not sue farmers for inadvertant use — exactly what you’re describing here. Some 275,000 farmers use our seeds each year. Since 1997, an average of 11 lawsuits have been filed each year — out of 275,000. Only nine have gone to full trial. Not one of the cases involved inadvertant use or accidental use like you describe. Not one.

      Reply

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