Organic Consumers Association

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Maine farmers and others have court date to refute Monsanto ruling

A lawsuit filed by a nationwide consortium of farmers against the chemical giant Monsanto concerning genetically modified seeds is headed for court again.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., will hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 10 and is expected to rule within three months of the hearing.

The case questions Monsanto's legal basis for genetically modified seed patents, and seeks blanket protection from patent-infringement lawsuits for farmers, should their crops be contaminated through unwanted pollination by Monsanto's genetically altered plants. The plaintiffs include Maine farmers.

By law, certified organic crops cannot contain genetically modified material.

While most of the plaintiffs are organic farmers, some are conventional farmers who farm with seed that hasn't been genetically modified and face the same risks of contamination.

Genetically modified seeds are protected by patents. Farmers who grow genetically modified crops must buy new seeds each year, and cannot use traditional seed-saving practices.

In February, U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case brought by the national, nonprofit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, which is based in Washington, Maine, and whose board president is a Maine potato-seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater.

The trade association seeks to have the judgment reversed and the case sent back to federal district court. Monsanto will argue that Buchwald's decision should stand.

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