January 31 in New York, a U.S. district court judge decided that by March 31. she will determine whether a landmark suit concerning GMOs will go to trial, according to New York’s Village Voice.
Last March, the Public Patent Foundation filed claims challenging the validity of 23 of Monsanto’s patents on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGTA) and 82 other farming associations.
This court case seeks to protect US farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates both organic and non GMO conventional crops. This contamination occurs naturally from wind and animal activity, leaving small family farms open to abusive lawsuits as they are accused of infringing on Monsanto patents.
These aggressive lawsuits have driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy. And Monsanto’s reach is worldwide; their seed monopoly now controls the genetics of nearly 90% of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.
Those targeted include farmers who purchased seeds from Monsanto and then violated their contracts by saving seeds for the next year’s planting. But throughout history, saving seed has been the way farmers, and crop diversity, have survived.
In India, farmer suicides are a tragic result of these predatory practices. In 1998, the World Bank forced India to open its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate and GMO seeds, which need fertilizers and pesticides and cannot be saved.
As a result, poor peasant farmers must buy new seeds for every planting season at ever-higher prices, leading to increased poverty and indebtness.
This historic shift from saved seed to corporate seed monopoly also represents a dangerous shift from agricultural biodiversity to monoculture. Monocultures increase the risk of crop failure. For example, in Maharashtra’s Vidharbha region farmer suicides at one point numbered approximately 10 per day. This is also the region with the highest acreage of Monsanto’s GMO Bt cotton.
The farmers who entered the courtroom wanted to ensure the judge knows their survival depends on this lawsuit. Said one, “We’re not asking Monsanto for one penny. We just want justice for our farmers and we want court protection from Monsanto.”
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