Wednesday, April 20, 2011


 Above; Flowering alfalfa plant.  Photo: Scott Bauer  Below: Corn. Photo Keith Weller USDA gallery
Here's important news from the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF):

Above: Sugar beets in the field. Photo: Peggy Grebs USDA gallery
On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit on March 29 against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past. The action seeks a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing organic farmers and seed growers if contaminated by Roundup Ready seed. [PUBPAT is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy.]

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their property," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients."

"Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that's not possible, and it's actually in Monsanto's financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply," said Ravicher. "Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not." 
"Transgenic seed should not be on the market. They are a threat to the future of farming and consumer freedom of choice," asserted Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of FTCLDF. "Monsanto should not be suing farms whose land the company's products contaminate; Monsanto should be paying them damages."

Go to the FTCLDF page to see the list of plaintiffs and to read more.

Here's more info from the Cornucopia Institute

Other actions you can take this month: If you live in the WA area, you can testify next week to the USDA in Seattle.
From the Cornucopia Institute

"Next week the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its semiannual meeting in Seattle.  Three members of the policy staff from The Cornucopia Institute will be in attendance....

We have a lot to present.  Every citizen gets just 5 min. to speak and in the past you could speak a second 5 min. if you had a proxy from someone who could not attend the meeting.  The corporate-friendly chairperson of the panel just broke with tradition and eliminate the second 5 min.

There are some real hot button issues like will organic chickens have legitimate outdoor access and enough space inside buildings, will hogs be confined just like on factory farms and will the new potential rules put family-scale dairy farmers out of business.

If that's not enough a proposal is pending to allow any synthetic inorganic food as long as it allegedly has "nutrient value."  That could open the door to all kinds of bizarre novel substances that have no business in organics.  Turning organic food into what Michael Pollan calls "food-like substances."...