Judge dismisses farmers’ class action against Monsanto

Posted on: March 9th, 2012 by Steve Larson

A federal class action lawsuit brought last year by a consortium of farmers against the agricultural and chemical company Monsanto was dismissed on February 27, 2012 by federal district court judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in New York.

The plaintiffs, none of whom use Monsanto’s products, are seeking to have the company’s agricultural patents invalidated.  They said they were concerned that Monsanto would sue them if the company’s patented strains of soybeans, corn or alfalfa, which make up a majority of American crops, appeared in their fields.  In January, oral arguments in the case brought hundreds of farmers and advocates to Lower Manhattan to protest the power wielded by Monsanto in American agriculture.

In the February 27th ruling, the judge said the farmers consortium, and the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, had no standing to bring such a suit, had not been harmed by the company, and had engaged in a “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.”

The lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Daniel B. Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation, said the decision “to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing.”  But Monsanto’s general counsel, David F. Snively, called it “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.”

Mr. Ravicher said the plaintiffs would probably take the case to the Federal Court of Appeals.