WASHINGTON, D.C., January 13, 2005 -- CropChoice news: The
Center for Food Safety released today an extensive review
of Monsanto's use and abuse of U.S. patent law to control
the usage of staple crop seeds by U.S. farmers. The
Center (CFS) launched its investigation to determine
the extent to which American farmers have been impacted
by litigation arising from the use of patented genetically
engineered crops. Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers details
the results of this research, discusses the ramifications
for the future of farming in the U.S. and outlines policy
options for ending the persecution of America's farmers.
"These law suits and settlements are nothing less
than corporate extortion of American farmers,"
said Andrew Kimbrell executive Director of CFS. "Monsanto
is polluting American farms with its genetically engineered
crops, not properly informing farmers about these altered
seeds, and then profiting from its own irresponsibility
and negligence by suing innocent farmers. We are committed
to stopping this corporate persecution of our farmers
in its tracks."
The report finds that, in general, Monsanto's efforts
to prosecute farmers can be divided into three stages:
investigations of farmers; out-of-court settlements;
and litigation against farmers Monsanto believes are
in breach of contract or engaged in patent infringement.
CFS notes in the report that, to date, Monsanto has
filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers in 25 states
that involve 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or
farm companies. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget
of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely
to investigating and prosecuting farmers.
"Monsanto would like nothing more than to be the
sole source for staple crop seeds in this country and
around the world," said Joseph Mendelson, CFS legal
director. "And it will aggressively overturn centuries-old
farming practices and drive its own clients out of business
through lawsuits to achieve this goal."
The largest recorded judgment CFS has found thus far
in favor of Monsanto as a result of a farmer lawsuit
is $3,052,800.00. Total recorded judgments granted to
Monsanto for lawsuits amount to $15,253,602.82. Farmers
have paid a mean of $412,259.54 for cases with recorded
judgments. Many farmers have to pay additional court
and attorney fees and are sometimes even forced to pay
the costs Monsanto incurs while investigating them.
"Monsanto is taking advantage of farmers with
their marketing and their threats and lawsuits,"
said Rodney Nelson, a North Dakota farmer sued by Monsanto.
"It's hard enough to farm as it is. You don't need
a big seed supplier trying to trip you up and chase
you down with lawyers."
Farmers even have been sued after their fields were
contaminated by pollen or seed from a previous year's
crop has sprouted, or "volunteered," in fields
planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the
following year; and when they never signed Monsanto's
Technology Agreement but still planted the patented
crop seed. In all of these cases, because of the way
patent law has been applied, farmers are technically
liable. It does not appear to matter if the use was
unwitting or if a contract was never signed.
Various policy options supported by CFS include passing
local and state-wide bans or moratoriums on plantings
of genetically engineered crops; amending the Patent
Act so that genetically engineered plants will no longer
be patentable subject matter and so that seed saving
is not considered patent infringement; and legislating
to prevent farmers from being liable for patent infringement
through biological pollution.
CFS has established a toll-free hotline for farmers
facing lawsuits or threats from Monsanto to get guidance
and referrals: 1-888-FARMHLP.
To download the report go to: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press_release1.13.05.cfm