Organic farmers attempted a lawsuit against biotech corporation Monsanto this last Monday. Seeds tested by the farmers were shown to have genetically modified (GM) traces of Monsanto patented DNA in their structure. Issues such as this are common, as GM plants have the ability to cross-pollinate with organic varieties. The company seems to have no control of their own creations, as was recently seen in Oregon when unapproved GM wheat was found growing in a farmer’s field. Monsanto denied all responsibility, resorting to sabotage claims. However, the GM wheat variety was prohibited from being released by Monsanto. The company gathered its own test results of the wheat, but scientists don’t believe its credibility.
Monsanto has a history of suing farmers when saved seeds or crops test positive for their GM patents, like “Roundup Ready” crops altered to tolerate treatments of the company’s Roundup weed-killer. Cross-contaminated fields found to have any trace of their products are usually turned into evidence for Monsanto to sue the farmer for patent infringement. In its ruling Monday, the U.S court of Appeals said the organic growers must have faith in Monsanto’s promises that it will not sue them as long as the contamination is slight.
This is bad news for organic farmers and consumers. Certified organic items cannot contain GMOs, and at this rate, it will be harder to protect non-biotech crops. Exports have been impacted as well. Japan recently canceled their wheat orders from the United States due to fear of contamination. The ruling illustrates the inaccessibility of justice for small farmers and consumers, even after clear violations have taken place.
Image Source: nosha, Flickr, 26 June 2009
Sources: Elaine Watson, Food Navigator – USA, 12 June 2013; Hank Schultz, Food Navigator – USA, 03 June 2013; Dan Charles, NPR, 30 May 2013; Mark Drajem and Jack Kaskey, Business Week, 06 June 2013; Sara Sjolin, Market Watch, 30 May 2013; Carey Gillam, Reuters, 10 June 2013;