The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has officially dismissed a lawsuit brought by The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations against Monsanto Company.
OSGATA and plaintiffs in the case alleged that they did not want to grow crops containing Monsanto's biotechnology traits but feared a patent-infringement lawsuit in the event the company's traits happened to enter their fields inadvertently through, for example, cross-pollination. However, the court rejected the lawsuit finding that OSGATA and plaintiffs had engaged in a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists." The court also held that there was no "case or controversy" on the matter as Monsanto had not taken any action or even suggested to take any action against any of the plaintiffs.
In its ruling, the court cited Monsanto's long-standing public commitment that "it has never been, nor will it be, Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits are present in a farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means."
"This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace," said David Snively, Monsanto's executive vice president, secretary and general counsel. "Importantly, this ruling tore down a historic myth which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified."
The ruling makes it clear that there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company's patented seed products.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald found that plaintiffs' allegations were "unsubstantiated ... given that not one single plaintiff claims to have been so threatened." The ruling also found that the plaintiffs had "overstate[d] the magnitude of [Monsanto's] patent enforcement," noting that Monsanto's average of roughly 13 lawsuits per year "is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States, approximately two million."
Snively noted that the company's position on this matter and its support of all agriculture production practices has been clear since the beginning of this case. Monsanto believes that all farmers should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice – whether that be organic, conventional or the improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems contribute to meeting the needs of consumers.
The case is Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto Company et al., No. 1:11-cv-2163-NRB (S.D.N.Y.).