The terms freedom and rights continue to swirl as politicians hit the campaign trail, but for farmers across America these words represent their 20-year plight against agribusinesses. Earlier this month, over 60 family farmers, seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations along with the Public Patent Foundation sued Monsanto. Monsanto is best known for their wide range of GMO seeds and related growing products that have been sweeping through USDA approvals, despite extensive farmers, environmentalist, and health advocates’ concerns. The lawsuit is an unusual one, 20-years in the making. It tells a tale that for many Americans sounds like a conspiracy theory, until you meet those affected, including you.
Suing Monsanto was a pre-emptive measure for these organizations to protect their seeds and agricultural history. Ever since Monsanto’s GMO seeds received their respective patents, the company has filed a litany of suits against farmers for patent infringement. The majority of farmers were victims of cross-pollination by GMO crops and seed spills, yet Monsanto has successfully sued and bankrupted an unsettling amount of American farmers on these grounds. The company has also been chronicled intimidating farmers from seed saving, a tradition as old as agriculture itself, that empowers farmers to save money and produce resilient and hearty crops year after year.
This issue at hand is much larger than patent infringement. GMO seeds are carefully regulated or banned in the majority of developed nations. Although Monsanto is well aware of these restrictions and regulations, the company has successfully promoted the seeds as harmless, even a solution to world hunger.
Farmers are now fighting back together to protect their crops, and America's agricultural future, from complete contamination by GMO seeds. According to leading agriculture resource economists, GMOs have the potential wipe out entire organic seed banks, essentially causing organic seed varieties to go extinct, like canola. With Monsanto’s monopolistic market share of seeds planted in the US, corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, and alfalfa are rapidly heading down the same path as canola seeds.
This suit brings the GMO seed debate to a boiling point, as GMOs have been labeled as dangerous with a high potential to contaminate other crops in developed nations, except for the US. Now as the USDA continues to aid agribusiness through expedited approval of GMOs and their byproducts, the other side of the battle has finally garnered enough money and courage to take on the agribusiness behemoth. Prior to this suit, farmers risked being sued by Monsanto’s powerful legal department when the GMO seed trespassed and contaminated their fields, a rather perverse precedent that is finally being questioned in the courtrooms on a large-scale. GMO contamination directly threatens the livelihoods of surrounding farmers from crop contamination that may ruin their organic seed and businesses. Organic standards require years of preparation before land can be certified organic. One too many GMO seed contaminants and the entire business is lost, and the farmer risks being sued by the company, in the vast majority of cases, Monsanto, who contaminated their fields.
To follow the lawsuit, check out the Public Patent Foundation. For more information and interviews with leading agricultural experts, organics leaders, and family farmers, read the Press Release.
Tiffany Finley started her sustainability journey while camping in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota. Since then she has been dedicated to reconciling the industrial and the natural world views to create a hybridized mode of development toward sustainability. Majoring in Environmental Management in the US and then obtaining a Master's of Science in Strategic Leadership toward Sustainability in Sweden, she takes an analytical view based on science. She works with non-profits, small to medium businesses, and government organizations to strategize for sustainability in their respective sectors. Honored to join the writing cast at Triple Pundit, she looks forward to covering a wide range of sustainability news.