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Organic Farmers Garner More Support in Legal Battle with Monsanto

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The list of plaintiffs engaged in an ambitious lawsuit against Monsanto - the chemical company turned biotech/seed firm - just grew. The case has profound implications for farmers across the United States and the world, but you probably haven't heard about it.

In March, the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat), a not-for-profit legal services organization dedicated to protecting the public's interest in the patenting system, filed suit against Monsanto on behalf of 60 organic farmers and a bevy of agricultural organizations seeking assurance from the biotech giant that it would not sue if their patented genes were found to have contaminated the farmers' crops.

The case is the first of its kind and a necessary one for farmers who, without legal protections otherwise, operate under a pervasive fear that Monsanto will target them next with a patent infringement lawsuit. Monsanto has a history of suing organic or conventional farmers who have no contract with the company, and yet who've been found to unwittingly harbor crops with patented genes on their land. Yes, thanks to a 2002 Supreme Court decision, whose majority opinion was authored by ex Monsanto Lawyer Clarence Thomas, the issuing of utility patents for lifeforms has been permitted to continue unabated. That ruling was based on the landmark Diamond v. Chakrabarty Supreme Court decision of 1980 in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was forced to administer exceptionally broad licensing allowances for individuals and corporations seeking to patent living organisms.