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Goliath Wins Latest Round of Food Fight

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*Update: Supreme Court refuses to hear case.

Organic farmers and seed growers are vowing to take their fight with Monsanto on to appeals court now that a judge has ruled to dismiss their case against the agriculture giant.  The judge had listened to oral arguments in Federal District Court in Manhattan in January while hundreds of small farm supporters rallied outside.

What’s at stake, according to the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and other plaintiffs, is the ability to farm without fear of patent lawsuits from Monsanto, and perhaps the very existence of heirloom and organic varieties of food.  The lawsuit challenges the validity of seed patents.

Monsanto’s response to the lawsuit dismissal underscores a very different perspective:
“This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace,” said David F. Snively, Monsanto’s Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel. “Importantly, this ruling tore down a historic myth which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified.”

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher said, “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing. Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers. Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error. In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law. Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which will review the matter without deference to her findings.”

Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen says he and other family farmers will continue to seek their day in court.  The grassroots group Food Democracy Now reiterates, “no matter what happens… we will go forward.”

(Sow True Seed, one of the small farm plaintiffs, has provided seeds for growing our family garden.)

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