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Biotech The Courts

300k Organic Farmers To Sue Monsanto For Seed Patent Claims 617

microphage writes "Monsanto went after hundreds of farmers for infringing on their patented seed after audits revealed that their farms had contained their product — as a result of routine pollination by animals and acts of nature. Unable to afford a proper defense, competing small farms have been bought out by the company in droves. As a result, Monsanto saw their profits increase by the hundreds of millions over the last few years as a result. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto tackled 144 organic farms with lawsuits and investigated roughly 500 plantations annually during that span with a so-called 'seed police.'"
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300k Organic Farmers To Sue Monsanto For Seed Patent Claims

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  • Wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:35PM (#39051061)

    So what you're telling me is, all I have to do is develop an easily identifiable genetic strain of a common farm plant, copyright it, then let it pollinate whatever and wherever it can, and then I can sue EVERYONE? Forever?

    Time to start reading up on genetic engineering!

    • Re:Wait! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:44PM (#39051247) Homepage Journal

      Yes... this is essentially what has been happening. Plus as part of the agreement that small farmers MUST sign they can not keep any of of their crop to be "cleaned" and used for next year's seed. The agreement essentially makes it that the plant is owned by Monsanto. Even if farmers steer clear of Monsanto seed, if there is any cross pollination and the the gene that Monsanto "owns" gets to be part of the crop then the seed police come knockin'.

      If you are interested in more information about this and the other evil that Monsanto has been a part of, take a look at the movie and the book "The World According to Monsanto" [] by Marie-Monique Robin. She tries to be fair, but be aware it's very anti-Monstanto since they used the trick of never talking to her about anything.

      • Re:Wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nugoo ( 1794744 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:09PM (#39051709)

        She tries to be fair, but be aware it's very anti-Monstanto[...]

        Theses two things aren't mutually exclusive.

    • Re:Wait! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:55PM (#39051465)

      It should be possible for the farmers to sue Monsanto, not just as a response to their suits, but for polluting their crops. If Monsanto claims ownership of the genes, then the fact that those genes are trespassing is also Monsanto's fault.

    • Re:Wait! (Score:5, Informative)

      by andydread ( 758754 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:03PM (#39051615)
      You are correct. Actually they patent it. And judges have already ruled that even if your crop is contaminated with Monsanto's strain through direct see drift even if its a fraction of your crop then you Monsanto own your crop. All of it. Google David VS Monsanto for details.
    • Re:Wait! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JobyOne ( 1578377 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:16PM (#39051843) Homepage Journal

      Why bother with all the difficulty of real live things?

      Just write poem, then a computer virus that places a copy of said poem onto the victim's hard drive and emails you their personal information.

      Sue them for copyright infringement.


      PS: What the hell happened to mens rea? I was under the impression it was a necessary component for a great many crimes. Wouldn't this sort of copyright interpretation have some nasty side effects? Like you could be held accountable if you buy a book from the Kindle store and it turns out the person who uploaded it doesn't actually hold the copyright?

      I suppose things like law and precedent (both past and future) go right out the window when the plaintiff has enough money.

  • by h4x354x0r ( 1367733 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:40PM (#39051159)
    300,000 plaintiffs... Monsanto has made a lot of enemies with their tactics. He who lives with the lawsuit...
  • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:51PM (#39051391) Homepage

    It's frightening that genetically-engineered crops have become so prevalent as to contaminate small-scale organic farms. The intellectual property arguments are obvious, but more concerning is the health risks. Compared with thousands of years of human agricultural co-evolution, these modifications are nowhere near as thoroughly-tested. Food crops nowadays are even modified to produce their own pesticides! There are likely very consequential side-effects lurking that will only appear generations later. Organic farmers, the ones that don't cheat, are doing us all a service by maintaining pure strains of our most important crops. Surely everyone should want to support this and protect them against contamination.

    • by Onymous Coward ( 97719 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:10PM (#39051735) Homepage

      For all those who think that because they can't see the problems with GMO there's nothing to worry about, this is one of the most important things to grasp.

      Compared with thousands of years of human agricultural co-evolution, these modifications are nowhere near as thoroughly-tested.

      Millennia of co-evolution is why all those soft-headed hippies are so keen on "whoa, man, natural". It's extremely thorough testing of interoperability. Not only that, it's continued refinement, of both plants and humans, so that the co-evolved plants approach ideal foods for the co-evolved humans. Ironically, rather a sophisticated scientific concept that these hippies grokked out intuitively.

      It's not necessarily Luddite or anti-technology to be opposed to GMO and other "scientific" advances in food. Opposition may be based on a deeper understanding of how these systems operate.

      The contempt that GMO advocates have for their opposition is embarrassingly hypocritical. It's a special kind of ignorance that leads one to believe that a lack of seeing problems is the same thing as an actual absence of problems. Folks, these are complex systems.

      "What could possibly go wrong?"

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:14PM (#39054251)

        You gotta put it into accurate terms that most slashdotters can understand:

        Organic = Open Source

        GM = Closed Source

        (I was partially going for a joke but this is accurate regardless...)

      • by Onymous Coward ( 97719 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:21AM (#39055889) Homepage

        Addressing the lot of responses...

        Eating poison ivy or fire: Co-evolution with a species is critically dependent on the manner of interaction between the species. That is, using a plant as a poison for millennia does not mean it's also safe to eat. It does mean it's likely to be a good poison.

        Modern crops are different from older species, just by hybridization/breeding: Yes. But they're based on the genes of crops that have co-evolved with humans, using a process that's also naturally occurring (though using it somewhat artificially). And they may indeed be lacking benefits afforded by progenitor cultivars and species. Likely no one tested the resulting breeds for the subtle (and certainly not the unknown) benefits of the original species when selecting their "successes". Older species are probably better for you, generally, if not as tasty or pretty.

        Many or most modern food plants are a novelty to any given person's ancestry: True, but not a novelty to humans in general. So the question here is how much pressure is put on the humans to evolve versus the crops? Also, there are differences between what foods different races can tolerate.

        What's precaution [] and what's science-stifling irrational fear:

        Yes, absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence....but in the absence of hard evidence, how are the opponents of GMO any different that the opponents of vaccination?

        As stupid as that may sound at first, there is actually a very important concept being asked about. What's prudent and what's ignorantly fearful?

        We need to weigh several factors. The possibility and degree of benefit. The possibility and degree of harm. The amount of knowledge we have about the topic. The amount of knowledge we have about the scope of the topic. (Rumsfeld's "known knowns" and "unknown unknowns" idea.) My review of these leaves me on the side of playing it safe.

        The primary wildcard that makes me sit up and pay close attention to folks playing with the genes of food crops is the fact that "Life finds a way." Crops breed out of our control. We've seen it already with GMO. If you're not using a time-tested method for changing crop genes (breeding, for example), you want to figure out more clearly what kind of results you'll be making. Fuck it up in a bad way and the "life finds a way" factor could leverage your mistake into a catastrophe.

        But, even if life does tend to find a way, I'd be for scientists experimenting with Frankenstein GMO crops in tightly controlled environments, and testing the results over the course of a couple generations of test subjects. But I guess that's infeasible.

        Likely we'll all be test subjects. And then we'll just have to wait a few generations to iron out the big problems, and a few hundred generations to smooth out the relationship, and a few hundred more generations to polish it out to a beautifully symbiotic sheen.

  • by HtR ( 240250 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:52PM (#39051405)

    I don't know, but it seems to tend toward the sensationalistic side.

    For example, my 1 minute of browsing the site took me to the story "FBI might shutdown the internet on March 8", ( [])

    Maybe we should all be more worried about the internet disappearing than Monsanto's evil deeds.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @05:57PM (#39051489)

    [...] audits revealed that their farms had contained their product — as a result of routine pollination by animals and acts of nature.

    Monsanto should be the ones who have to pay those farmers for contaminating their fields.

    But of course we're talking about the USA, where justice is but a distant memory and bribery is now known as lobbying.

  • It's obvious to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:00PM (#39051557)

    That if any pollen from monsanto crops were to stray onto my property, that is a form of industrial pollution. It's worse for my farm than radioactive fallout.

    The damages should be in the millions, as now every grain of pollen must be removed. It's no different than if some asshole is crop dusting with toxic chemicals, and the toxins blow all over your land, and render your crops unusable. The soil needs to be dug up to a minimum 3 feet, hauled away, stored indefinetely, and replaced with arable soil.

    It has altered the biological nature of the crops in an unnatural way -- it is a toxic by-product of Monsanto's business. An organic farm would be irrepairably ruined by such an act.

    It should be assumed that farmers did not illicitly buy Monsanto seed - as we have an assumption of innocence. It should be assumed that Monsanto knows, that absent extreme measures, there will be cross pollination and contamination of neighbouring farms. They should be liable for this widespread damage.

    As long as Monsanto is picking up the tab, I'm fine with them winning lawsuits in the cases where it can be shown the farmer intentionally sowed their seed without "consent".

  • by TimothyDavis ( 1124707 ) <> on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:13PM (#39051795)


    Last year, 270,000 organic farmers from around 60 family farms tried to take Monsanto to court over issues pertaining to a genetically-modified seed masterminded by the corporation.

    I don't know how many crops these folks can grow on a farm with that many farmers taking up so much room.

  • COUNTERSUE! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmell ( 832646 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:22PM (#39051965)
    Monsanto's GM products are finding their way into places where they were not (necessarily) wanted.

    If my farm's product is supposed to be organic, wholly natural agricultural products, imagine the damages resulting from finding out that said farm is actually producing genetically modified produce. Why, that could destroy the whole farm, not just the current crop.

    Countersue. Monsanto's product was not adequately controlled and got out of control. Why, there might even be some (extremely major) criminal liability on Montsanto's part.


    • Re:COUNTERSUE! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @07:22PM (#39052989)
      It's been tried []. The Canadian Supreme Court declined to hear that case on the grounds that it did not meet the standards of a class action suit. Consequently Canada is in the perverse situation where Monsanto reaps all the financial benefit of distributing Roundup Ready Canola into the ecosystem, but bears no responsibility for the damage it does to people who don't want it.

      That case was just two farmers trying to get class action status though. If this one is 300,000 farmers, then I suspect they'll have a much better chance.
  • by tizan ( 925212 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:30PM (#39052111)

    My neighbor's dog come into my yard and damage my neighbor has to pay for restitution

    Mosanto pollen come to my yard and modify/damage my plant and its output...Mosanto has to pay for restitution, No ?

    Or should it that i have to pay Mosanto for the opportunity of getting my plant screwed up without asking for it ?

    Logical legal and patent system please.....please

    • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @09:58PM (#39054707)

      Let's just say I grow Red Kuri squash. I get a premium for it. Then my neighbor grows Blue Hubbard. It cross pollinates. My seed is now a hybrid, no longer the pure OP line. What if I grow seedless citrus, then my neighbor grows some citrus of another variety. they cross pollinate, now I have seeds in my citrus. Should I have the right to sue? I don't think so. Cross pollination is cross pollination, and it doesn't just apply in GE crops. What if I grow rice and have a special market for people who believe science is evil and don't want the naturally occurring sd-1 gene 'contaminating' their rice, and my modern variety growing neighbor's plants cross with mine and now sd-1 is expressed in some of my rice? Why is it that farmers have been able to deal with these problems for years, then organic growers come along and suddenly there's talk of lawsuits? Think about what being able to sue for cross pollination really means. It's absolutely absurd if you know anything about agriculture.

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:37PM (#39052237) Homepage Journal

    It was mentioned earlier RT seems a bit fringe. Certainly a class action of this size would be on some mainstream news sites, but some sniffing on google turns up other small sites quoting RT.

    • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @08:41PM (#39053805) Journal

      Al Jazeera will probably pick it up, I'm sure the BBC will too. USAian networks don't seem as interested in this sort of thing, except for Comedy Central.

      I hear that Monsanto's "seed police" are usually heavily built ex-military types driving black SUVs with tinted windows and hired to be as intimidating as possible.

      I'm always a pretty critical thinker and always question the source, but based on everything I've seen and read on this topic this seems to be the real deal. Monsanto is a company with the ethics of Enron and the reach of Exxon. They've got to be stopped. Period.

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:43PM (#39052371)

    1) At what percentage of GMO seed is Monsanto suing? If it's 5% it's probably contamination they should definitely not be suing, but if it's 95% than that's probably deliberate contamination.

    2) How should their business model work? I find the idea of patented lifeforms and violation of first sale doctrine to both be repulsive. But if you're in the business of developing GMO crops how else can you fund your research?

  • Legal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mullen ( 14656 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @06:45PM (#39052387)

    Forget the whole GMO debate, but how is it even possible that a multi-billion dollar company can threaten to sue a small farmer and then force them to sell out to them when the farmer cannot mount a proper defense. Couldn't you just create a well funded company that would identify small farms and threaten to sue them for anything, forcing them to sell out to you for lower that fair market prices as a part of a settlement? How does that not fall under some Organized Crime law?

  • 60 family farms (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gnaac ( 705946 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @08:00PM (#39053405)
    "270,000 organic farmers from around 60 family farms" Thats 4,500 farmers per family. Must be keeping busy on those cold winter nights.
  • by midifarm ( 666278 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @08:12PM (#39053513) Homepage
    So can a man patent his sperm and sue any woman that gets pregnant from it because it was the terms of use were not agreed upon?

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