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.

Ira speaks at Rally at Lafayette park

Ira speaks at the Rally at Lafayette Park

“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.

“How long have you been working on this issue?” An activist asked me “36 hours” I replied.

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”.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

11 responses to “My suit cost more than your car”

  1. Kip Gardner says :

    Glad you are involved with this. I’m a member of OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association), and we’re a party to this suit as well. Right now, the only crop I grow that could be impacted by Monsanto’s policies and products is alfalfa, but it’s clear that they want monopoly power & are willing to do literally anything to gain it. Aside from the odious economic and political implications, it’s really, really bad biological practice to narrow down the agricultural gene pool this way. BTW, I feel that the Administration’s cozy relationship with Monsanto is probably the most damaging of it’s policies in the long run & is probably the one thing I’m most angry with the President about (there are others – continuing to coddle the fossil fuel industry runs a very close second).

    • paxus says :

      @Kip – Thanks for your comment and support of anti-GMO work. Top of my upset with the Obama administration is drone strikes and total failure of transparency. Transparency is especially annoying, because it was promised, is politically inexpensive and they are worse than Bush/Cheney.

      Also indefinite detention is bumming me big time.

  2. ivyaloha says :

    May I quote with excerpts this on my facebook wall … I’m not a party to any lawsuit – – but what Monsanto is doing is so outrageously evil I like to keep my ‘friends’ abreast of the goings on. [plus two of my family members are invested in them… and I’d like to inform them of the shady practices. Ivy [EW ’82-’89, Sunnyside CoH ’89-’05]

  3. paxus says :

    @Ivy – all these blog posts are in the public domain, quote as you like – linking back is nice but not required. Monsanto investors bringing shareholder resolutions would be a great way to influence these predatory practices

  4. paxus says :

    Good post. Good pics. Thanks.

  5. paxus says :

    oops re last “reply”, which is by me, Gordon Twin Oaks. I’m apparently somehow logged on as Paxus, so this will be a “reply” also. I’ll pay more attention next time. –Gordon

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