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
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