Organic farmers have filed an appeal in a case challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds. The appeal seeks to reinstate the case, which was dismissed in February by U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York before it went to court.

The group bringing the lawsuit is the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, which is led by a Maine potato seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen of Bridgewater.

“A year ago we filed the lawsuit because farmers deserve justice and we haven’t yet received it, so we’re going to keep fighting until we get it,” Gerritsen said. “We’re not asking for any monetary settlement. We simply want the right to be free to grow how we want on our farms without being faced with a patent infringement lawsuit should we be contaminated by Monsanto.”

In addition to questioning the legal basis for Monsanto’s genetically modified seed patents, the lawsuit seeks to give organic farmers blanket protection from patent infringement lawsuits should their crops become contaminated through pollination by Monsanto’s genetically altered plants.

By law, certified organic crops cannot contain genetically modified material.

The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2011 by the growers association and more than 80 agricultural and consumer groups, with legal backing from the Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to reduce abuses of the U.S. patent system.

Monsanto filed the motion that led to the dismissal of the case and has maintained throughout the case that it doesn’t sue farmers whose crops are inadvertently contaminated by its genetically modified seeds. Monsanto brought 144 lawsuits against farmers from 1997 to 2010 and settled 700 cases out of court in the same period.

The appeal was filed Wednesday. The case now goes to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. The earliest the case could be heard is this fall.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at [email protected]

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