Seed Dealers Helping Monsanto
Intimidate Farmers

December 1, 2002
Knight-Ridder Tribune

Beth Hundsdorfer-Gansmann, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

METROPOLIS, Ill.-- Eugene Stratemeyer, a Southern Illinois farmer,
discovered, according to this story, that he was in trouble with
agribusiness giant Monsanto when U.S. marshals showed up at his Metropolis
farm and confiscated his soybean seeds, the beginning of a two-year legal
battle in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, waging technology against
time-honored farming practices.

The story explains that Monsanto obtained an injunction against farmer after
they determined he saved Roundup Ready soybeans, a genetically engineered
soybean that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup, to replant the next

Stratemeyer was quoted as saying, "I didn't know about this at all. I found
out I couldn't replant my own seeds when the marshals showed up on my land
and seized my soybeans. The first time I became aware of this was right then
when I found out about the lawsuit."

Under a technology user's agreement farmers are supposed to sign when they
purchase the seed, they are prohibited from saving seed for replanting or
sale to other farmers.

But Stratemeyer, in a countersuit, claims he never signed such an agreement.
The battle ended last week when a federal jury found Stratemeyer violated
such an agreement with Monsanto when he saved and sold Monsanto's soybeans.
Stratemeyer was cited as contending the contract bans a traditional farming
practice of saving seeds from the harvest for replanting next year, and they
singled him out because of his stature in the community, adding, "I
definitely feel that they went after me because I was a prominent farmer.
They turned me into the proverbial sacrificial lamb. I was just a country
boy and not familiar with the court system, but I didn't feel this was

Jurors in East St. Louis awarded Monsanto about $16,000 in damages, plus
attorneys' fees and costs. However, the damage award is subject to a federal
judge's review and could go up or down.

Even though the verdict went against Stratemeyer, his lawyer, Ronald E.
Osman, was cited as sayings it still was a victory because the damages
awarded were so much less than Monsanto's request of damages in excess of

Testimony during the trial revealed seed dealers commonly sign farmers'
names to the seed contracts, or receipts.

Osman has filed a class-action suit against the seed dealers for forging
farmers' names on the contracts. The suit maintains that seed dealers are
agents representing the company.

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