Who Owns Our Food?

January 18th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

The companies who make the genetically modified seeds also own the rights to the technology and they require farmers to sign agreements when they buy their seeds that prohibit them from saving and replanting the seeds. Farmers are forced to buy new seeds each year from the biotech companies. Leading the charge in this strategy is St. Louis, MO – based Monsanto, who between 1997 and April 2010, has filed 144 lawsuits against farmers in at least 27 different states for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents.

Even if you are an organic farm and would never consider using Genetically Modified seeds, you can still be sued by Monsanto. If your farm shows more than “trace amounts” of their seed, even if the seeds entered your field(s) blown in by the wind or carried in by birds, Monsanto can and will go after you. Recognizing this, a group of organic farmers in the U.S. and Canada have filed a “pre-emptive” lawsuit against Monsanto in order to protect themselves should any of Monsanto’s transgenic seeds accidentally make their way into their fields.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald said she will hear oral arguments Jan. 31 in Manhattan on a motion by St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto to dismiss the suit filed last March 31 by a group of 83 farmers, seed growers and farm organizations.

The suit “seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed,” according to a release last week from the Colorado-based lead plaintiff, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA).

The suit, the plaintiffs claim, is “to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.”

“Monsanto’s technology is harmful for organic producers and processors,” COG executive director Beth McMahon said in a separate release this week. “To penalize our growers for GMO contamination adds insult to injury, and we won’t back down from this fight.”

Monsanto’s previous suits against farmers for alleged infringement on its patented seed suggest the company “intends to assert its transgenic seed patents against certified organic and non-transgenic seed farmers who come to possess more than ‘trace amounts’ of Monsanto’s transgenic seed, even if it is not their fault,” the plaintiffs claimed last year.

The irony here is that Monsanto is a leading company fighting against what it considers the over-reach of government regulations, all the while, its tight grip and regulatory hold on farmers is unprecedented and bringing the control of our food supply into the hands of a few biotech companies who (despite their promotional materials) are not interested in the democratization of our food supply.