A group of 60 organic farmers filed a lawsuit last week, denying accusations of infringing upon biotech corporation Monsanto’s patented plant germs.
The coalition — including Seedkeepers LLC of Santa Barbara — took action last week after several months of claims against the farmers from Monsanto. However, the prosecution denies using Monsanto property and claims the company’s genetically modified seeds — used to grow close to 90 percent of the soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola grown in America — have an invasive presence.
According to Jack Motter, a local farmer at Ellwood Canyon Farms, Monsanto unnecessarily burdens its smaller competitors.
“To me, it seems pretty ridiculous when you have got this huge, multinational corporation putting these local organic farmers’ backs against the wall with accusations,” Motter said. “These poor farmers, they are just going about their business; it is not like they want Monsanto’s seeds on their property.”
Despite the prosecution’s claims, a press release from Monsanto said farmers’ accusations are nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”
“[The] Plaintiffs’ allegations regarding patent validity are contrary to long established legal precedent which supports the validity of Monsanto’s patents and others in the biotechnology field,” Monsanto said in a press statement. “These efforts seek to reduce private and public investment in the development of new higher-yielding seed technologies… It is well-established that farmers growing biotech crops realize many benefits including increased yields and lower production costs, and the use of these crops have resulted in an increase in the adoption of conservation tillage practices that reduce soil erosion.”
According to Motter, farmers responded to the risk of mistakenly using Monsanto seeds by creating “buffer zones,” leaving their perimeter fields empty to avoid Monsanto seeds from neighboring farms cross-pollinating with native crops. However, Motter said such amalgamation is still difficult for farmers to avoid.
“If a neighboring farm is using Monsanto seed, then sometimes there’s just nothing you can do to avoid getting it mixed up in your own,” Motter said. “But I know that for me, and a lot of other organic farmers in the area, the last thing we want to do is use Monsanto seed.”
*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article referred to Monsanto seeds as “sterile”. That was incorrect. According to the company, Monsanto does not sell or produce sterile seed. The Daily Nexus regrets this error.