February 27, 2012 - Earlier this month, we reported that the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and other groups - adding up to over 300,000 organic farmers - had filed suit against Monsanto Co., asking for court protection from the agriculture giant's aggressive patent enforcement of its genetically-modified seeds.
Judge Naomi Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York threw out the lawsuit, calling it a “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.” The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed the suit last March on behalf of over 50 organizations.
At issue: the farmers' belief that Monsanto would file a patent infringement lawsuit against any farmer found to have Monsanto's biotech seeds in their fields, even by inadvertent contamination from a neighboring farm.
Although Judge Buchwald said that Monsanto had not sued any of the plaintiffs or any other farmer based on such accidental crop contamination, the farmers' nervousness likely stems from the fact that Monsanto filed 144 patent infringement suits against farmers between 1997 and April 2010 and won judgments against several farmers who used their biotech seed without paying royalties. In some cases, the unlicensed use stemmed from farmers using seeds saved from the previous year without paying additional royalties.
Judge Buchwald's ruling indicated that it was unlikely that Monsanto would sue any of the organic farmers, who are known for their strong aversion to using genetically modified seed products.