by SUSAN MANN
A Canadian organic organization has joined a United States-based lawsuit challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds.
Laura Telford, executive director of Canadian Organic Growers, Canada’s largest organic farming organization, says her organization joined the lawsuit in a show of solidarity with farmers everywhere. The Organic Growers are among 59 other farming associations, seed companies and farmers taking part in the lawsuit.
Telford says her group isn’t the only Canadian organization that has joined the lawsuit. Others include seed companies and individual farmers mainly from Alberta.
The Public Patent Foundation, a Manhattan-based public interest law association, filed the lawsuit March 29 in federal district court in Manhattan. The groups are asking the court whether Monsanto has the right to sue farmers for patent infringement if the company’s genetically modified seed lands on growers’ fields. One of the goals of the suit is to demonstrate that the biotechnology patents issued to Monsanto aren’t in the public interest.
Monsanto has sued farmers both in Canada and the U.S. in the past when patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops.
Telford says another reason Organic Growers joined the lawsuit is to make a statement so officials issuing patents would think about what kind of patents they approve and what kind of precedents are being set. The United States is the world’s largest patent-issuing country.
“They need to look at social issues when they’re making those decisions,” she says, noting there are a lot of genetically modified products getting licensed for use in America that end up in Canada.
She says they expect the lawsuit to go on for at least six years “and at each phase all of the organizations will be called upon to answer questions and possibly file more briefs.”
The Canadian Organic Growers is a national membership-based education and networking organization. BF