My suit cost more than your car
A dozen Southern Exposure folks got up and on the road before dawn to attend the oral arguments for the next phase of our lawsuit against Monsanto at the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, DC. The hearing went better than I had expected, especially given that the previous judge had claimed our case was not worth her time and dismissed it. The three long serving and experienced federal judges making up the Appeals Court asked sharp questions for the hour long session of our lawyer (Dan Ravicher from the Public Patent Foundation) but especially of the lawyers from Monsanto. [We are challenging Monsanto's GMO patents and preemptively suing to protect ourselves from suits if our farms should become contaminated. See details here]
The Monsanto lawyers have a tough job. They need to sound reasonable and fair, and they need to not give anything away. This is problematic because some of the things they should be giving away are pretty clear. At the heart of our case is the desire to assure farmers who are contaminated by GMO seeds, who don’t want them and have no intention of using Monsanto’s Round Up pesticide, to be free of fear of lawsuit. This is actually not what Monsanto wants; they want everyone to be afraid of their lawyers swooping in, finding contamination and then suing the farmer and destroying them financially regardless of whether the farmer is using their products or not. They want this because they want a monopoly on seeds, because monopolistic prices are far higher than market prices and the profits are fantastic.
But the lawyers can’t very well say “we want to destroy every farm which is not paying us for our patented seeds even if they got them through contamination of their fields.” Instead they have to say things like “Farmers are our customers, why would we create bad blood with people we want to sell to?” And they quote the very reasonable sounding things on the Monsanto website. And if you have been a Federal judge for over 20 years, you have heard every type of dodge, redirection and elusive answer ever created.
“Are you saying that you would not sue farmers who are not using your Round Up pesticide?” asked one judge. The Monsanto lawyer returned to the text from the website, like it was a religious doctrine. He certainly had no intention of answering the reasonable question of the judge. The judges pressed on. ”What if hypothetically a farmer was found to have 50% Round Up Ready seeds after 3 years, just from contamination and replanting their own seeds. This is certainly beyond “trace” levels. Would Monsanto sue then?” More reasonable questions, more evasive answers.
Our lawyer believes that this hurts Monsanto, that you dont actually compel judges by evading their direct questions. I hope he is right.
This is approximately what I said to the crowd in Lafayette Park near the White House and the Appeals Courthouse.
This is where Monsanto wants to be fighting us, in the courthouse. Here they have all the advantages. Laws which invert the idea of trespass so they can steal crops from farmers lands and test them for their poisons. Patent laws designed to protect their profits, not public health. Here they can out-gun us with fancy lawyers and technicalities.
We need to take this fight to the media, to activists like those of you in this crowd today. We need to stop these predatory law suits that Monsanto is initiating with the intent of controlling the market and destroying farmers. We need to ask the hard questions that the judges were asking today, but in forums where Monsanto can’t hide their answers in obscure precedent and legal terms which can’t be understood.
One reader was inspired to offer financial support for this important work. We are directing donations to the Food Democracy Now travel fund for Farmers. Please donate here and specify “Travel Fund for Farmers fighting Monsanto”.