Since March, organic farmers across the country have been at legal war with Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of genetically altered seeds (and possibly the world’s leading producer of public outrage). The conflict emerges when pollen from modified crops produced by Monsanto gets carried by the wind and genetically contaminates organic farms. Plaintiffs claim Monsanto has sued over 100 farmers for patent infringement, even though their crops had been unwillingly contaminated.
If you happen to be a small farmer, and Monsanto decides to take you to court, you can reasonably compare the result to a dragonfly (that’s you) splattered against the windshield of a truck (that’s Monsanto), and you’ll probably lose your farm. Then again, if an entire swarm of dragonflies descended on the truck at once, they may accomplish something.
In July, Florida Organic Growers, a Gainesville-based nonprofit established in 1987 to promote sustainable agriculture, joined a coalition of family farmers, seed companies, and environmental organizations representing hundreds of thousands of individuals in a lawsuit against Monsanto, led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association.
Shortly after the lawsuit began, Monsanto issued a statement saying they wouldn’t assert their patents against farmers who suffer “trace” amounts of transgenic contamination, but the promise wasn’t legally binding, and the plaintiffs aren’t convinced. And that’s all they want—a legally binding promise that Monsanto will end its predatory use of patent enforcement to put smaller competitors out of business.
In other news, a June 2011 ABC News poll reveals that 93 percent of Americans think genetically modified foods should be labelled and that 57 percent of Americans would use those labels strictly for the purpose of avoiding them.
Not everyone shares the same sentiment, though. The Center for Consumer Freedom prefers the term “genetically improved” and criticizes organic farmers for using “junk science” to market their products to a wealthy minority of suburban “elitists.” It should be noted that the Center for Consumer Freedom is a front group for Berman and Company, a public relations firm for tobacco companies, fast food restaurants, factory farms, and—last but not least—Monsanto.
Update (1/18/11): For an in-depth story on the topic, check out Where the GMOs Grow by Lily Wan.