Organic farmers are claiming that Monsanto is threatening the very existence of organic food. Public Patent Foundation director Dan Ravicher said, “it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.”
Tom Helscher, director of Corporate Affairs at Monsanto, stated in an email to The LA Times: “As we have stated clearly, Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue a farmer if our patented seed or traits are found in his field as a result of inadvertent means.”
Percy Schmeiser knows better. In 1997, he accidentally planted some seeds from Monsanto and found them to be resistant to pesticide. He saved seeds from those plants and planted them in 1998. He was sued for patent infringement in Canadian Federal Court. Schmeiser is not alone, The Times reports, “Monsanto has sued more than 100 farmers for infringement, and settled quietly with many more, including several high-profile cases in which the farmers clearly argued they did not want the genetic material and did not intend to use it.”
Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) says, “We consider the threat of contamination from GMO crops to be significant, and the reality is that the organic market will not tolerate anything that has GMO content, either by design or by contamination.”
The Times continues,
“Stepping out of a meeting at a farmer’s conference in Bangor, Maine, on Friday, Gerritsen continued, ‘One of the crops that we grow is organic seed corn. Should that corn get contaminated by Monsanto, we are not only concerned with the extinguishing of the value of that seed, but we would be subject to a patent infringement lawsuit. A family farmer going up against Monsanto, we could easily go bankrupt just trying to clear our name.’
This scenario seems more likely when considering that Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready lines of crops, which are genetically designed to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate – sold by Monsanto as Roundup – already represent more than 80% of the soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola seeds grown in the U.S. In fact, it is highly likely that organic farmers growing anywhere in the country are surrounded by these transgenic varieties in every direction. St. Louis-based Monsanto’s varieties then mix into the organic fields by cross-pollinating via the wind and mixing in seed bins at distributors. The company claims this is unintentional.
The OSGATA was party to a lawsuit against Monsanto to protect organic farmers from frivolous lawsuits. Rodale.com reports, “The judge dismissed the case on the grounds that none of the plaintiffs had actually been sued by Monsanto and therefore their reasons were ‘unsubstantiated.’ According to a Monsanto press release about the case, 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 2 million.’ … Monsanto each year investigates 500 farms whose fields purportedly contain Monsanto’s patented crops, even going as far as trespassing illegally on one Indiana farmer’s land… As of 2006, about 10 years after the commercial introduction of GMOs, Monsanto’s internal records show that as many as 4,531 such cases may have been settled out of court.”
If you’re a farmer, you must protect your crops from Monsanto’s Agricultural Rape. This may require a greenhouse or some other barrier to keep unwanted pollen from mixing into your crop.