A collection of 60 certified organic farmers around the country filed a lawsuit last week against the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker and agribusiness, Monsanto. The organic plaintiffs, including Seedkeepers, LLC of Santa Barbara, were forced to take legal action to prevent future accusations of infringing on Monsanto’s seed patents.
According to the 2005 brief of Monsanto vs.U.S. Farmers, Monsanto makes a business out of pursuing hundreds of investigative leads each year. Many of the accused have claimed that they did not use Monsanto’s science lab seeds; furthermore, if they were found on-site, such seeds would be trespassing.
Furthermore, according to the same case’s 2005 brief, “The proliferation of Monsanto’s biotech crops within U.S. agriculture has impacted tens of thousands of farmers, as contamination of non-biotech crops with genetically engineered traits has affected nearly every major commercial crop in the United States.”
Monsanto’s 647 biotech plant patents impact 85-90% of all soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola grown in the US. The company’s steep investment in genetic engineering has led them to develop a “terminator gene” to ensure that all seeds are delivered sterile. Many believe that this terminator gene has been incorporated into Monsanto seeds (despite conflicting available media)
Monsanto holds a near monopoly on the US seed market. As such, it is not a stretch that their patented “Roundup Ready” seeds might pop up on any farm, invited or not.
The public record brief of OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Associations) et al. vs. Monsanto states the following: “Non-transgenic crops are vulnerable to contamination by transgenic seed at almost every step of the production process: before seed is purchased; through seed drift or scatter; through cross-pollination; through commingling via tainted equipment during harvest or post-harvest activities; during processing; during transportation; and during storage.”
With a $10 million annual budget and 75 staff members devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers, organic farmers feel threatened by Monsanto. Not only must they incur large costs in preventing Monsanto seeds from trespassing on their land (i.e., dedicating portions of the property as strictly “barrier” zones), but they also run the risk of being sued for entertaining the seeds that are not theirs.