The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), an opponent of patents with very expansive claims, has sued St. Louis, Missouri-based company Monsanto, makers of various genetically modified
seeds. PUBPAT is a New York City-based nonprofit which has won victories in patent fights with
Columbia University, Myriad Genetics, Pfizer, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which owns patents on stem cell technology.
From PUBPAT's press on the Monsanto suit:
NEW YORK - March 29, 2011 - On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation
(PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company to challenge
the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being
accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in
Monsanto says the suit is "false, misleading and deceptive."
The modified seed in question is known as Roundup Ready in its various forms because it is genetically modified to be resistant to herbicide, making
it easier to control weeds that grow near the crop.
"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their
property," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite
perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before
and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients."
We've briefly read the allegations of the PUBPAT suit and press statement and find many of these allegations to be false, misleading and deceptive.
Here are the facts:
Monsanto has not ever sued and has publicly committed to not sue farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their
Biotechnology crops have provided a wealth of benefits to farmers and the environment. 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. These benefits are the reason why farmers have overwhelmingly and willingly
chosen to use these technologies year after year. These crops have been grown widely in the United States for the past 15 years, and have been planted
on more than 2 billion acres by 15 million farmers throughout the world.
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.
The plaintiffs' approach is a publicity stunt designed to confuse the facts about American agriculture. These efforts seek to reduce private and
public investment in the development of new higher-yielding seed technologies. This attack comes at a time when the world needs every agricultural
tool available to meet the needs of a growing population, expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. While we respect the views of organic farmers as
it relates to the products they choose to grow, we don't believe that American agriculture faces an all-or-nothing approach. Rather we believe that
farmers should have the ability to choose the best agricultural tools to farm their own land and serve their own end-market customers. We are
confident that these multiple approaches can coexist side-by-side and sustainably meet the world's food needs over next 40 years.
We stand behind the American farmer, remain committed to investing in new tools to help American agriculture meet the needs of our growing world, and
are prepared to vigorously defend ourselves.
It is unlikely that the plucky nonprofit will completely defang the ag giant, but given Ravicher's track record, it would be risky to bet against his
group not winning a single concession in the case.