Canadian Organic Growers, Canada’s largest organic farming organization, has joined 59 other farming associations, seed companies and farmers in a legal action against Monsanto to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on transgenic (genetically modified) seed.
In a lawsuit filed in March 2011, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a Manhattanbased public interest law association, asked the court to consider whether Monsanto has the right to sue farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s genetically modified seed lands on their farm. Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director, said, “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer whose land is 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.”
One of the goals of the suit is to demonstrate that the biotechnology patents issued to Monsanto, the manufacturer of DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs and a host of other toxins, are not in the public interest. In 1817, U.S. Justice Story wrote that to be patentable, an invention must not be “injurious to the wellbeing, good policy or sound morals of society,” and “a new invention to poison people … is not a patentable invention.”
Past President of COG and organic farmer Arnold Taylor said, “I’m thrilled that Canadian Organic Growers and other farm organizations are not afraid to stand up to the most dominant chemical company on the planet to defend the rights of farmers. Genetically modified seeds threaten the diversity of our seed supply and farmers’ rights to save seed, and jeopardize the livelihoods of farmers who could lose access to international markets.”
To be patentable, an invention must not be “injurious to the wellbeing, good policy or sound morals of society.”
According to Laura Telford, National Director of Canadian Organic Growers, “Organic standards place the responsibility to produce crops free of genetic contamination on the shoulders of organic farmers. Farmers are required to take appropriate measures to ensure that their crops are not subject to contamination from neighbouring fields. With the proliferation of patents for new transgenic crops from Monsanto, including most recently, a patent for Roundup Ready herbicidetolerant alfalfa, farmers’ ability to grow organic crops is becoming increasingly difficult.”
The full legal complaint is available here.