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Organic farmers take on Monsanto over patent lawsuits

February 17, 2012|By Dean Kuipers

Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School, who is the lead attorney on the suit, says this is a misrepresentation. “This is the exact phrase they’ve said to every single person who’s ever asked them about it, including the judge. One problem is the words ‘inadvertent means.’ Well, they imply in their papers that they submitted to the courts, and they haven’t denied it, that they believe it’s the burden of the organic farmer to use their own property to set up buffer zones, and if an organic farmer isn’t forgoing using their full property to create a buffer zone with their neighbors who are Monsanto customers, well then, any resulting contamination is their own fault and not inadvertent.”

In other words, it’s the responsibility of the non-GMO farmer to keep the GMO off his farm. Patent law is very powerful and gives the holder – usually a large corporation a fistful of rights. Farmers claim this is not fair.

Ravicher calls the company a “patent troll” and argues in the filed complaint that Monsanto’s use of patents in this way is invalid.

“The patents are invalid for a couple different reasons, including that law requires patented things to have social utility, and GM seed, we will prove, has no social utility. It is not good for society. It is harmful for society, and therefore it cannot be patented,” Ravicher says.

“Second, the patents are not infringed because our clients have no intent to use, or make, or grow the GM plants. So without intent there can be no infringement. That hasn’t been declared by any case yet, so that will be a novel issue.”

The suit presents four such arguments. First, however, Judge Buchwald must find by the end of March that the concerns of these farmers, many of whom are currently not growing key money crops like corn because of the threat of infringement suits, is not a hypothetical or abstract.

“What I think it gets down to is a basic human right that organic farmers have the right to grow on our farms crops that are free from GMO content. And I think that Monsanto needs to keep their pollution on their side of the fence,” says Gerritsen.


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