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New York, New York - January, 16 2012 - We wish to assemble free and peaceful citizens outside the Manhattan District court in an effort to present the important message to family farmers that millions of Americans stand behind them as they seek their day in court. In the past two decades, Monsanto's seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto.
In many cases organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and April 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.
The lawsuit OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) et al vs. Monsanto was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in "protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed". The judge has requested and agreed to hear oral argument in orders to make a decision of whether or not to allow the farmers' case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
"We are family farmers and we are headed to court in New York City on January 31 to let the judge know that our survival as farmers depends on this lawsuit," said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen. Gerritsen is also President of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, lead plaintiff in Monsanto et al v. Monsanto. "We're not asking Monsanto for one penny. We just want justice for our farmers and we want court protection from Monsanto."
We are encouraging supporters of farmers' rights to grow food without fear and intimidation to assemble outside the courtroom in a peaceful manner to support the farmers in their claims, recognizing that these injustices affect us all and that this case is deserving of the court's time and attention.
"I don't think it's fair that Monsanto should be able to sue my family for patent infringement because their transgenic seed trespasses onto our farm and contaminates and ruins our organic crop," said organic farmer Bryce Stephens of Jennings, Kansas, and vice-President of OSGATA. "We have had to abandon raising corn because we are afraid Monsanto wouldn't control their genetic pollution and then they would come after us for patent infringment. It's not right."
Due to limited space, only a small number of individuals will be able to enter the courtroom and listen to the proceedings. We respectfully ask that farmers and plaintiffs in the case be given priority to hear this case in person as each plaintiff has traveled many miles and put a great deal on the line to be a part of this case.
In the spirit of peaceful assembly and respect for the courts, we request that you adhere to the following principles:
Principles for Citizens' Assembly
1. Assemble outside the court in a show of support for family farmers and their right to grow food without the threat of intimidation, harassment or loss of income.
2. Assemble peacefully to present a positive message that America's citizens stand behind family farmers and support their rights of legal protection under the Constitution.
3. Bring signs that portray messages of:
b. The positive impacts of sustainable and organic agriculture
c. Solutions to our current crisis in food, agriculture and society
d. Support for farmers who seek justice in the courts
4. Be respectful of court security requests and follow them faithfully.
5. Maintain a respectful distance from the court entry on Pearl Street, making sure not to block access for foot traffic or vehicles.
6. Maintain a tone of respect for the court and the sanctity of our legal process as the judge hears the merits of this important case.
7. Cell phones, cameras and tape recorders are prohibited inside the courthouse. Those who enter the courthouse must conform to court security protocols.
8. No signs, t-shirts with slogans or other disruptions, visual or otherwise, are appropriate or allowed in the courtroom.
9. No chanting or loud noises allowed outside the courthouse as all must maintain their conduct in ways that are respectful to the judicial process and in accordance with the seriousness of the case.
10. Please follow the instructions of designated assembly captains who will continue to update you as the events of the day unfold.
As advocates for farmers and supporters of a citizen-based democracy we greatly appreciate your support for family farmers and your agreement to act in accordance with these principles in order to guarantee farmers' rights to grow food without fear and intimidation.
Location to Hear Plaintiffs and Attorney Comment After Hearing
Once oral arguments are heard in the court, farmers, plaintiffs and lead attorney Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation will be available for comments to supporters and the media, at the Southwest Corner on 500 Pearl Street, at Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
For those planning on assembling at 9 am, Pearl Street has been recommended to gather respectfully and overflow can gather at Foley Square.
Link to Google Map http://bit.ly/NyDistrictCtPearlSt
If link does not work, Google: 45 Cardinal Hayes Place, New York, NY for location of assembly, which is the intersection of Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
Action! Click here to RSVP to attend the Citizen's Assembly.
Action! Click Here to Sign Our Petition Supporting Farmers
About Maine's Wood Prairie Farm (www.woodprairie.com; 800-829-9765)
Wood Prairie Farm is located in Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi River and Maine's historic center of potato farming. For over 35 years, Jim Gerritsen, his wife Megan and their family have used organic farming techniques on the fertile land of Wood Prairie Farm to grow the finest potatoes, seed, vegetables and grain nature will produce. Wood Prairie Farm is MOFGA Certified Organic, and its seed potatoes, kitchen potatoes, seeds and other products are available direct to the customer by mail order from its website and catalog. Wood Prairie Farm is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/woodprairiefarm.
Additional information about OSGATA et al v. Monsanto is available at www.woodprairie.com/wpf_news.
Heidi Hunt is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She has been on the editorial staff since 2001 when Ogden Publications acquired the magazine. Heidi especially enjoys interacting with readers and answering the myriad of questions they throw her way. You can also follow Heidi on Google+.