Reposted with permission from Wood Prairie Farm.
Dozens of family farmers, Plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto, traveled from across America to Washington, D.C. to take on Monsanto and demand the right to farm. They attended the January 10th Oral Argument in the Appeal of Dismissal which was aired before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A Citizen's Assembly in support of family farmers coincided in Lafayette Square with the beginning of the Oral Argument inside the court room.
"Our farmers want nothing to do with Monsanto," declared Maine certified organic seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen, President of lead Plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. "We are not customers of Monsanto. We don't want their seed. We don't want their gene-spliced technology. We don't want their trespass onto our farms. We don't want their contamination of our crops. We don't want to have to defend ourselves from aggressive assertions of patent infringement because Monsanto refuses to keep their pollution on their side of the fence. We want justice."
Many farmers have been forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits from Monsanto. This case challenges the validity of Monsanto's genetically engineered seed patents and seeks Court protection for family farmers who, through no fault of their own, may have become contaminated by Monsanto's patented seed and find themselves accused of patent infringement.
Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against America's family farmers and settled another 700 out of court between 1997 and 2010. These aggressive lawsuits have created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.
"The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto's patents," said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation "At the oral argument on January 10, we will explain to the Court of Appeals the District Court's errors and why the case should be reinstated."
A Citizen's Assembly In Support of Family Farmers took place in Lafayette Square on Thursday, January 10, 2013. Family farmers, their lawyers, and supporters joined after the hearing to explain why they traveled thousands of miles to protect their farms and communities.
"Farmers have planted and saved seeds for more than 10,000 years without interruption until Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds entered the market in 1996. Almost immediately Monsanto began a campaign of harassment against America's farmers, trespassing on their land and launching frivolous patent infringement lawsuits," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!. "It's time to end Monsanto's campaign of fear against America's farmers and stand up for farmers' right to grow our food without legal threats and intimidation."
The lawsuit was originally filed in March, 2011, by a large group of 83 Plaintiffs, which included individual family farmers, independent seed companies and farm organizations, whose memberships total over 300,000 individuals. The case was dismissed in February, 2012, by Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald who ruled that the farmers lacked standing.
Lawyers from the Public Patent Foundation representing the farmers have identified numerous reversible legal and factual errors committed by the judge, which they assert caused her to mistakenly dismiss the case and have filed a powerful appeal brief with the court. Amici briefs in support of the Plaintiffs have been filed by a group of eleven prominent law professors and by a group of fourteen non-profit agricultural and consumer organizations.
OSGATA has established a Farmer Travel Fund to provide travel assistance to Plaintiff farmers for the case.
Wood Prairie Farm is located in Aroostook County, Northern Maine's historic center of potato farming. For over 36 years, Jim & Megan Gerritsen and their family have been farming organically and grow the finest potatoes, seed, grain and vegetables. Wood Prairie Farm's organic seed potatoes, kitchen potatoes, vegetable and cover crop seeds and other products are available direct to the customer by mail order from its website and catalog. Wood Prairie Farm is on Facebook.