Court of Appeals ruling on June 10th, 2013: Farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to sue Monsanto to protect themselves from transgenic seed patents because, in hearings for this lawsuit, "Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'" The Court of Appeals stated that "While Monsanto's representations are not a covenant
not to sue, they have a similar effect." See the June 10th OSGATA press release>>
This is a partial victory because it means that farmers who are inadvertently contaminated with GMOs at less than 1% can speak up about how they were contaminated without fear of being sued by Monsanto.
We expect that plaintiffs will appeal this case to the Supreme Court.
In 2011, Southern Exposure joined 9 other members of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and over 80 total plaintiffs in taking a stand for the protection of organic seed. Plaintiffs include agricultural organizations, seed companies and farmers. This landmark lawsuit, filed on March 29th by the Public Patent Foundation in US District Court in New York, asks the courts to declare that plaintiffs will not be held liable if they become contaminated by Monsanto's GMO genes and to declare Monsanto's GMO patents invalid due to a lack of usefulness to society.
The Safe Seed Pledge
Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners, and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we will not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities.
In the News
Learn about how Roundup ReadyÂ® GMO crops are creating new pathogens at Food Democracy Now! and sign the petitition to ask Sec. Vilsack to stop these seeds from being planted until further research is done.
Reversing roles, farmers sue Monsanto over GMO seeds.- grist.org. 3/31/2011
Monsanto Sued by Organic Farmers Over Modified-Seed Patents. Bloomberg. 3/29/2011.
Farmers, seed sellers sue Monsanto. St Louis Business Journal. 3/29/2011.
The Fight Against GMOs - Doctors weigh in on the dangers of eating genetically modified (GM) foods. The Share Guide. Jeffrey M. Smith.
No seeds, no independent research. The Los Angeles Times - Op-Ed. February 13, 2011. Doug Gurian-Sherman - "Doug Gurian-Sherman is a plant pathologist and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington"
Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety. Food Source: Red Green & Blue. February 14, 2011. Jeremy Bloom.
If You Find Problems with Genetically Modified Foods: Watch Out! Natural Food List. January 24th, 2011. Jeffrey M. Smith.
Monsanto's Harvest of Fear. Vanity Fair. May 2008. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. "Monsanto already dominates America's food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation's tactics - ruthless legal battles against small farmers - is its decades-long history of toxic contamination."
Potential Effects of GMOs on Outcrossing Rates
By Cricket Rakita
In mid-1998 at the University of Chicago, some technicians were experimenting by genetically modifying a mustard variety to be herbicide resistant. Though no known gene effecting floral characteristics was altered, the workers noticed that the genetically modified flowers looked a little different than those on the not altered plants. Though the scientists thought this change was unlikely to be significant, they decided to test the modified plants' out-crossing rates in comparison to the non-altered plants. (An out-crossing rate is the rate at which the pollen from the measured plants successfully pollinates a female flower and produce viable seed).
In the September 3, 1998 edition of the journal Nature, Dr. Joy Bergelson of the University of Illinois published her tragic results in a paper stating that the genetically engineered mustard has fully over 20 TIMES the out crossing rate of the standard mustard. This means that pollen from the genetically engineered mustard is over 20 times more likely to successfully reproduce than its natural counterpart growing right next to it. This was completely unexplainable to Dr. Bergelson, as the only thing she believed that was done in the genetic alteration was the implant of a herbicide resistance gene.
One question left unanswered by this study is exactly how this phenomenon affects the isolation distance needed to safely save seed from a variety while GMO's are growing at what is generally considered a safe distance. At Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, we have increased the isolation distances we require for this reason, but we have no basis for knowing how much is enough. To our knowledge here at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, no further studies were done to test either the out-crossing rates or the isolation distances of other genetically modified plants.
At Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, we see this as a threat to both everything we do and stand for! It may be possible for us to lose a rare variety of a plant maintained for generations to a far off planting of a genetically engineered crop thought to be safely isolated. Please write the USDA's Biotechnology Public Affairs department and demand that all genetically modified seeds be tested for both out-crossing rates and safe isolation distance.