By Bill Lambrecht firstname.lastname@example.org 202-298-6880
January 10, 2013 12:30 pm
WASHINGTON • An appeal by organic farmers to a court ruling last year turned into a wide-ranging protest this morning with speakers skewering Monsanto Co. for its policies and demanding labeling of genetically modified food.
About 200 people, many from organic seed companies, rallied in a park directly across from the White House on a crisp, cloudless day amid construction for festivities surrounding the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 21.
Protesters announced that another rally will take place on Jan. 21 with a march on the National Mall demanding that Obama follow through with what they say was his promise in 2007 to seek labeling of food with genetically modified ingredients.
The protest suggested an uptick in efforts to demand labeling, which was defeated in a California ballot initiative in November. Creve Coeur-based Monsanto spent at least $8 million in an industry-wide effort to sink the California proposition.
Vermont state Sen. David Zuckerman said at the rally that he is leading an effort in his state seeking legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified food.
Organic farmers, who are pressing a lawsuit against Monsanto, often complain that their products are threatened by wind-blown pollen from genetically altered crops.
“We want and demand the right of clean seed not contaminated by a massive biotech company that’s in it for the profit,” Carol Koury, who operates Sow True Seeds in Asheville, N.C., said at the rally.
The gathering was held in conjunction with an appeal heard today before a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Washington. The suit questions the legality of Monsanto’s seed patents and seeks protection from patent-infringement suits against farmers in the event their fields are found to contain genetically modified seed.
The lawsuit was filed by the Public Patent Foundation on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association.
Last February, U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald in the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit, asserting that “there is no evidence to suggest that plaintiffs are infringing defendants’ patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur.”
Buchwald said in her ruling that it was “hardly significant” that Monsanto had filed 144 patent-infringement cases over a 13-year period given the number of farms in the United States.
After the dismissal, a Monsanto lawyer called the ruling a victory for all farmers.
This morning, Public Patent Foundation’s Daniel Ravicher, a lawyer who presented the appeal, asked: “If our clients don’t have standing today to seek protection, when will they have standing? Do they have to wait to be contaminated?”
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch