A group of seventy-three farmers, seed companies, and public advocacy organizations is taking another stab at over-turning a district court’s decision protecting biotech/agriculture giant Monsanto, this time in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case stems from Monsanto’s ability to sue farmers for growing crops containing their patented genetically modified DNA, whether or not the farmer is aware of it. The original case was ruled in favor of Monsanto, thereby giving farmers no protection against further suits. The decision seems to be based on the company’s claim to not sue individuals growing the patented crops unknowingly, despite plenty of instances to the contrary.
To date, in the U.S., Monsanto has sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses for alleged seed patent violation. Monsanto has won every single case. The company was awarded nearly $24 million from just 72 of those judgments, the Center for Food Safety found.
Additionally, [Bill] Freese estimates that as many as 4,500 small farmers who could not afford legal representation have been forced to accept out-of-court settlements. He estimates, based on Monsanto’s documents, that those farmers paid Monsanto between $85 and $160 million in out-of-court settlements.
“As early as 2003, Monsanto had a department of 75 employees with a budget of $10 million for the sole purpose of pursuing farmers for patent infringement,” the Center for Food Safety stated in a new report, “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.” “Agrichemical companies earn billions of dollars each year, and farmers cannot possibly compete against such resources.”
The crux of the plaintiff’s case is aimed at the legality of the patents in the first place, claiming them to fall short of “usefulness” as required by patent law. In addition, they claim the products do not provide the results they claim to in the first place and are merely a guise for Monsanto to sell more of its Round-Up pesticide, to which all of their crops are immune.
For the defendant, they claim more of the same, and that given two courts’ previous rulings, a third attempt shouldn’t be warranted.
“The District Court ruled and Court of Appeals affirmed that there was no controversy between the parties,” the company said in the statement. “There is neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto will pursue patent infringement against farmers who have no interest in using the company’s patented seed products.”