Home Back Issues April 2012 Seeds of dissent

Seeds of dissent

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article Index
Seeds of dissent
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5

BY LEE VAN DER VOO

0412_SeedsOfDissent_01
These heirloom tomatoes are grafted onto a disease-resistant root to improve productivity in the greenhouse at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath. The farm is home to Wild Garden Seed.
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
The New York courtroom was standing room only. On Jan. 31, outside in Foley Square in Manhattan, people were waving burlap sacks, bearing slogans like: “Seeds are a Human Right.” Inside, 55 organic farmers from 22 states, including Oregon, stood shoulder-to-shoulder asking for a day in court. A federal judge later refused to hear their case, which sought to revoke patents for genetically modified seeds from Monsanto. But back in the Willamette Valley, much is still on the line.

This is the latest in litigation, now headed to the Court of Appeals, to pit organic seed growers against purveyors of genetically modified Roundup Ready sugarbeet seeds, patented by Monsanto and bred to stand up to the potent herbicide while weeds succumb. They are the backbone of a lucrative business in the Willamette Valley.

The 83 plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim Monsanto’s patents on such products are a bully stick; wielded in lawsuits against organic farmers who say their land is contaminated by pollen drift from conventional farms. They claim crops are rendered worthless in a market with zero tolerance for GMO traits, and that farmers are abandoning some crops and purity testing others as GMO counterparts arrive, losing income. Brought by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), farms and other groups, the suit represents about 300,000 organic farmers, including Oregon’s Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, Siskiyou Seeds in Williams and Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home.

“There are two ways that the organic growers can be protected from lawsuits,” says Sabrina Hassan, senior counsel at the Public Patent Foundation. “If the patents are invalidated, then Monsanto couldn’t sue anybody ... The other thing is the judge can issue a declaration saying these clients can’t infringe” because organic growers don’t want GMO products.

Frank Morton, who coordinates seed production at Wild Garden Seed and is a past president of OSGATA, says the lawsuit also has the potential to end hefty investments in GMO crops.

“I think one reason [genetically engineered] crops convey such power to the patent holders is because of the power of the patents to convince investors that this company has a good investment. Companies with a nice portfolio of GE patents impress investors on Wall Street. I think if those patents go away, that might change,” he says.

The litigation is significant for another reason. It’s led by Dan Ravicher, dubbed a modern “Robin Hood” by Science Magazine for fighting patents that fall outside the “public good,” magic words that squash patents under federal law. Ravicher is known for founding the New York-based Public Patent Foundation, which, with the ACLU, sued Myriad Genetics in 2009 for patenting genes for breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad won the case on appeal, which may now head to the Supreme Court.

 



 

More Articles

The Backstory

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

In our cover story this month, Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, discuss their rapidly growing businesses and Portland’s red hot food scene. The conversation provides an interesting lens through which to explore trends in the grocery store and restaurant sectors.


Read more...

College Conundrum

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

University and college tuition fees have been rising for more than a decade, while state funds for higher education have steadily declined.


Read more...

Downtime

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

I'm not very interesting,” says a modest Ray Di Carlo, CEO and executive producer of Bent Image Labs, an animation and visual effects studio.


Read more...

Buyer's Remorse

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents and students paying for college today are like homeowners who bought a house just before the housing bubble burst.


Read more...

The Rail Baron

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Oil is gushing out of the U.S. and Canada, and much of it is coming from places that don’t have pipeline infrastructure. So it’s being shipped by rail.


Read more...

October surprise

News
Sunday, October 12, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER

Cylvia Hayes, tabloid vs. watchdog journalism and the looming threat of a Cascadia earthquake.


Read more...

Launch

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

September's Launch article features Orchid Health, BuddyUp and Inter-Europe Consulting.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS