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The Manic Gardener

Kate Gardner

The Manic Gardener – Turning the Tables: Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto

Imagine this: Your neighbor invents fire and patents it so that you can’t have any unless you obtain a license–for a fee. Furthermore, your license requires that you put your fire out each morning and buy new coals from your neighbor each evening. Or you get sued.

Bad enough? It gets worse. One day, his fire escapes and burns your house down. Then he sues you for patent infringement. After all, you now have fire not covered by your license.

Absurd? Yes. But there’s a close (and disturbing) analogy here to a practice the seed giant Monsanto has been using for years: suing farmers for having Monsanto’s patented genetically modified material in their fields, even when that material is unwanted and diminishes or destroys the value of the crop.

Now organic farmers are suing Monsanto, arguing that a farmer whose fields are unintentionally contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs shouldn’t have to bear the worry and expense of being sued, on top of losing their crop, their organic certification, and possibly years of work developing a line of seed.

This week I’m joined by two people at the forefront of this effort. Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), talks about what it’s like to be an organic farmer, constantly worried about contamination and lawsuits. And Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead lawyer for the suit, explains some of its legal ins and outs—including the environmental basis for the argument that GMOs serve no social function.

Check The Manic Gardener blog for more about this topic.