Join Date: Apr 2001
Lawsuit seeks to invalidate Monsanto’s GMO patents
A landmark lawsuit filed on March 29 in US federal court seeks to invalidate Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds and to prohibit the company from suing those whose crops become genetically contaminated.
The Public Patent Foundation filed suit on behalf of 270,000 people from sixty organic and sustainable businesses and trade associations, including thousands of certified-organic farmers. In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, et al. (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 11 CIV 2163), PUBPAT details the invalidity of any patent that poisons people and the environment, and that is not useful to society, two hallmarks of US patent law.
"As Justice Story wrote in 1817, to be patentable, an invention must not be 'injurious to the well being, good policy, or sound morals of society,'” notes the complaint in its opening paragraphs, citing Lowell v. Lewis.
The suit points to studies citing harm caused by Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, including human placental damage, lymphoma, myeloma, animal miscarriages, and other impacts on human health.
Plaintiffs condemn Monsanto for prohibiting independent research on its transgenic seeds and for its successful lobby efforts to ban GM food labeling. Many raise the specter of allergic reaction to GM foods, proof of which is hidden by lack of labeling.
The suit also confronts the propaganda that transgenic seeds improve yield and reduce pesticide use, citing reports on failure to yield and increased pesticide use. The complaint mentions a 2010 lawsuit by West Virginia after several studies contradicted yield results claimed in Monsanto’s ads. And, it notes the growth in glyphosate-resistant superweeds.
“Thus, since the harm of transgenic seed is known, and the promises of transgenic seed’s benefits are false, transgenic seed is not useful for society.”
This means, should the court agree, that all transgenic seeds fail the test of patent law. The suit has the potential to reverse patent approval on all biotech seeds, impacting BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta, and others. Genetic contamination of natural plants occurs where GM seeds are grown, no matter who developed them. Ingesting food which has had its DNA mucked with is dangerous, regardless of who does the mucking.
What makes Monsanto different is its US seed monopoly. Well documented by market authorities, Plaintiffs point out that, “Over 85-90% of all soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola grown in the U.S. contains Monsanto’s patented genes.”
Through its monopoly, Monsanto has spiked the cost of seeds. In the past decade, corn seed prices increased 135% and soybean prices 108%, the suit asserts. As recently as 1997, soybean farmers spent only 4-8% of their income on seeds, “while in 2009, farmers who planted transgenic soybeans spent 16.4 percent of their income on seeds.”
Monsanto has also used its dominant position to limit competition from other herbicide producers, as well, the suit alleges.