Federal Court dismisses Organic Growers' lawsuit against Monsanto

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit brought by The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations against Monsanto Company.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald threw out the lawsuit, saying there was basically no evidence of harm and that the charges represented no controversy.

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“There is no evidence that plaintiffs are infringing defendants' patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur,” Buchwald wrote in her opinion. She also noted that this was a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.

OSGATA and plaintiffs in the case alleged that they did not want to grow crops containing Monsanto's biotechnology traits but feared a patent-infringement lawsuit in the event the company's traits happened to enter their fields inadvertently through, for example, cross-pollination.

The court cited Monsanto's long-standing public commitment that "it has never been, nor will it be, Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits are present in a farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means," according to the company.

"This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace," said David F. Snively, Monsanto's Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel. "Importantly, this ruling tore down a historic myth which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified."

The ruling makes it clear that there was not a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company's patented seed products. 

The ruling also found that the plaintiffs had "overstate[d] the magnitude of [Monsanto's] patent enforcement," noting that Monsanto's average of roughly 13 lawsuits per year "is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States, approximately two million.” 

The case is Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto Company et al., No. 1:11-cv-2163-NRB (S.D.N.Y.).




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