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 lawsuits 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.