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.