After giving oral statements in Federal District Court, farmers in the The Organic Seed Growers Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto case, waited anxiously for almost a month to find out whether the case would move forward. This week reps for biotech giant Monsanto breathed a sigh of relief when Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled that it would not.
OSGATA brought the case against Monsanto in an effort to protect independent seed growers against lawsuits for patent infringement. They argued that they could be unfairly sued by the agribusiness giant if Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds were found on their property due to wind and other uncontrollable forces. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto has filed 144 lawsuits to enforce its patent rights.
Supporters of OSGATA came out in force on January 31 to Manhattan’s Foley Square while the oral hearings took place nearby. Many perceived the hearings as a well-deserved day in court for organic farmers around the country. Nonetheless, their optimism was cautious, as protestors knew a win against the biotech leader would be a significant coup, though an unlikely one.
In her ruling, Judge Buchwald stated, “Their [OSGATA’s] actions subsequent to the filing of the complaint cannot reasonably be construed as threatening and, regardless, are simply the product of plaintiffs’ transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.”
Despite Judge Buchwald’s dismissal of the case, OSGATA may not be finished with Monsanto. The New York Times reports that lead counsel for the plaintiffs suggested they would appeal to the Federal Court.
In response to the ruling, the president of OSGATA, Jim Gerristen said, “Family farmers need the protection of the court. We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto.”