Farmers versus Monsanto

This morning, a group of farmers and organic seed growers have gathered at a hearing in New York City to present oral arguments as the first phase in what could turn out to be an historic lawsuit brought against biotech giant Monsanto.

The suit, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, was brought as a pre-emptive suit by a group of 83 co-plaintiffs that seeks, in part, to protect themselves against the alleged patent infringement suits that they fear they will face if their seed becomes contaminated by transgenic (aka GMO) genetics.

“According to the Public Patent Foundation, Monsanto has one of the most aggressive patent assertion agendas in history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts.

By now, many of us have heard about these suits that have been brought against small farmers across North American. They stand accused of growing crops that carry patented genetics, despite the fact that the contamination was not wanted. The case that comes to my mind here in Canada is Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer whose fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola.

Unfortunately, many believe this contamination is an inevitability. According to PUBPAT (The Public Patent Foundation at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law), “Co-existence between transgenic and organic seed is impossible because transgenic seed contaminates and eventually overcomes organic seed.” In an interview with Margaret Roach of Away to Garden, C.R. Lawn of Fedco Seeds (one of the plaintiffs) claims that this could be taken further, “… as said transgenic seed contaminates and eventually overcomes all other seed. Because it multiplies at will it cannot be contained.

The outcome of today’s hearing will determine whether the case will be allowed to move forward or not. If you’d like to follow along and find out about the ruling as it happens, I suggest checking in with the following hashtags on Twitter: #stopmonsanto, #monsanto, and #occupybigfood. You can also watch a live stream of the happenings outside the courthouse and chat about the case and the issues involved here.

Margaret Roach has generously allowed me to publish this list of things that we as gardeners and consumers can do if we want to keep Monsanto out of our homes, gardens, and food supply.

What you can do:

  • Support the campaign to label genetically engineered foods. See
  • Support California’s initiative to become the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling law.
  • Avoid purchasing transgenic foods in your supermarket, coop or health food store. The Center for Food Safety has good lists of what to avoid. [NOTE: PUBPAT “encourages the public to not buy any products made with corn, soy, sugar, canola, cotton or alfalfa unless you are certain it was made without any use of genetically modified seed. If you're not sure, call the manufacturer and ask."]
  • If you belong to a food coop, help them keep transgenic foods out of their store.
  • Varieties in our [Fedco] catalog have a source code. Purchase those coded 1-3 and try to avoid those coded 5, from multinational suppliers who engage in biotech.
  • Buy open-pollinated seeds [Note from Gayla: A plant variety whose seeds develop as the result of random, natural pollination] instead of F-1 hybrids [Note from Gayla: A plant variety that is crossbred under controlled conditions to create very specific results.] whenever possible.
  • Support small alternative seed companies who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and don’t knowingly carry transgenic varieties.
  • Better yet, learn how to save your own seeds and start doing it! [Note from Gayla: I have also tomato seed saving tutorial here. It's really easy to do and fun in a high school science way!].
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “Farmers versus Monsanto

  1. I’m really interested to see how this plays out. For years I’ve been angry about the heavy hand of Monsanto on small (and large!) farmers. Finally, a voice against the stranglehold!

  2. Thank You for writing this & Margaret for providing the “list” … its beginning to feel like the occupy movement is taking a turn for the good and without actually having to go out and just stand in the streets to be seen and counted … voices coming together to speak clearly about basic needs. Again thank you both for providing direction.

  3. Great post! Thanks for laying out practical steps consumers can take. Everyone certainly needs to get educated so we can feed our families and have a little peace of mind.

  4. Thank you for this article. It baffles my mind how evil Monsanto appears to be. I recall vividly the trial and reaction of the Percy Schmeiser case (I’m from Saskatchewan), and their actions in India. Thanx again!

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