Groups ask Supreme Court to hear Monsanto case

Published on: Sep 6, 2013

A group of 73 American organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court Sept. 5 to hear their case against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical and biotech seed company's patents on genetically engineered seed. 

In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, the plaintiffs claim they have been forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed.

In a June 10th ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a group of organic and otherwise non-GMO farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto's transgenic seed patents "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'"

"While the Court of Appeals correctly found that the farmers and seed sellers had standing to challenge Monsanto's invalid patents, it incorrectly found that statements made by Monsanto's lawyers during the lawsuit mooted the case," said Daniel Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. "As a result, we have asked the Supreme Court to take the case and reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto's invalid transgenic seed patents."

In the case which was first filed in March 2011, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed are invalid because they don't meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to Ravicher. Evidence cited in the plaintiffs' court filings proves that genetically engineered seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically engineered seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

Kyle McClain, Monsanto chief litigation counsel, said the filing by PUBPAT is "a false, misleading and (as articulated by the lower courts) 'transparent' attempt to create a controversy where none exists," he said.   

"Further, the Courts’ have already pulled back the curtain on PUBPAT’s erroneous allegations, describing their fear of suit from Monsanto as 'baseless' and employing tactics 'not to be tolerated.' Simply put, and as further noted by the lower Courts, Monsanto has never sued an organic farmer under the circumstances claimed by Plaintiff’s," McClain said in a statement.