Post by: RozieDozie
Post by: RozieDozie
A class action suit has been filed by a group of plaintiffs connected with the organic/natural foods movement against the gene-splicing giant, Monsanto Corporation. The suit, filed March 29, 2011, in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, seeks a declaratory judgment against Monsanto. If granted, the judgment will prohibit Monsanto from suing for patent infringement in the event that its patented genes, such as the glyphosate tolerance gene, should turn up in seeds or plants grown by organic or heirloom farmers.
The suit was filed by the Public Patent foundation, or PUBPAT, a New York-based legal firm specializing in aspects of patent law pertaining to the public’s interest in such regulation. The suit was filed on behalf of about 60 plaintiffs, representing a broad spectrum of folks involved in the organic/pure foods movement. Trade organizations, like the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc., and The Cornucopia Institute were named; such organizations in turn boast tens of thousands of members. Several seed companies are participating, including Adaptive Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., Comstock-Ferre Seed Co., Fedco Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and numerous other companies. A number of individual farmers are also participating, including Wild Plum Farm, Montana, Jardin del Alma, New Mexico, Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc, and others.
The suit alleges that Monsanto’s aggressive tactics have, in the past, resulted in undue hardships on small operations who inadvertently experienced contamination from GMO crops, especially those containing the glyphosate tolerance gene (commonly known as the “Roundup-ready” gene) as exemplified in the well-known Percy Schmeiser case. In that case, Schmeiser, a canola farmer, was accused of patent infringement because Monsanto-owned genes turned up in his fields, in the absence of any license from Monsanto.
In a press release, PUBPAT said, “The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.” If the plaintiffs prevail, future situations like the Schmeiser case would not happen, at least in the United States, as Monsanto wouldn’t be able to sue when the intention of the farmer was to raise GMO-free crops. (The Schmeiser cases happened in Canada; this ruling would affect only American farms.)
PUBPAT cited four grounds for the suit, any one of which, if proved, should be sufficient to cause the court to issue the declaratory judgment.
1.) Monsanto’s patents are invalid
By law, patents must be new, non-obvious and useful. The suit asserts that not only are GMO’s not useful, but they may actually be harmful to public health, the environment and society as a whole. Moreover, they are obvious since they derive from gene sequencing. The complaint cites a number of studies and cases to support this claim.
2.) Monsanto’s patents are not infringed
Since there is no intention on the part of contaminated farmers to infringe patents, there can be no patent infringement. Instead, contamination is in fact a trespass, causing damage to the affected farmers. The complaint contends that it is “perverse” that farmers whose crops have been contaminated should also be subject to litigation for patent infringement.
3.) Monsanto’s patents are not enforceable
If both previous arguments fail and patents are still admitted by the judge as being valid and infringed, PUBPAT intends to demonstrate that they are not enforceable because they are being misused to gain undue control over the market.
4.) Monsanto is not entitled to any remedy
Since the farmers in the class are seeking to produce only GMO-free crops, and GMO contamination destroys the value of such crops, Monsanto has not lost revenue due solely to the production of the contaminated crops. Consequently, it is not entitled to damages.
To be successful, the plaintiffs need only successfully prove any one of the four bases for the suit. Monsanto, on the other hand, must successfully refute all four of the claims to prove its case.
The suit has received widespread attention in the media and on the Internet, and has caused a sensation among pure food advocates and consumers, many of whom view the suit as yet another David-and-Goliath situation.
Post by Sue Capella
We had a full house at The Seed Bank last week for Amy Rice Jones’s free talk on fall planting. Farm manager for Petaluma’s popular food growing non profit, Amy is well respected in the community for her wealth of knowledge on sustainable farming and raising all things green. And her talk was full of great tips for local gardeners hoping to reap the bounty of a fall and winter vegetable garden.
Amy touched on everything, including what to plant from seed now, what needs to be planted from starts, soil amending, veggie bed location and sun exposure, cover crops, and how to protect soil during the winter.
If you’re going to broadcast seeds directly into the ground, don’t delay, you must plant when there are still midday hot spells, said Amy.
Depending on your location and the vegetable, you can plant seeds now through early October. Get those root crops in as soon as possible though, she stresses, including carrots and beets. And with carrots, keep the soil very moist until they sprout. Some of Amy’s favorite heirloom carrot varieties include “Scarlet Knots” and “Atomic Red.” As for beets, only plant red varieties—no golden varieties in the winter. She likes “Bull’s Blood” and “Early Wonder.”
Other fall veggies that can be planted directly in the ground from seed this month (September) include bok choy, chicory, radicchio, Chinese cabbage, mache, endive and escarole, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, and leafy greens, including kale, spinach, and lettuces. Some of Amy’s lettuce favorites include “Winter Density” and “Little Gem.” “Bloomsdale” spinach, another favorite, can be planted by seed directly into the ground now through early October and then again February through March for a successive crop.
Bok choy seeds can be sown now through October and again February through March; radishes, through October and again February through April.
Other cool weather crops to plant now include broccoli, mustards, cauliflower, onions, and garlic. Many heirloom garlic varieties can be planted through November.
In October, November, and December, you can’t plant seeds, Amy said. “Plant starts then.”
“With fall and winter vegetables, water midday to help them cool down in hot spells while getting established,” she added.
And give them 6 to 8 hours of sun, preferably including the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Soils become compacted easily during the rainy season, Amy pointed out. She recommends planting cover crops to stop winter soil from getting compacted, keep the soil “alive,” and serve as nutrients that can be worked into the soil.
Cool season cover crops Amy recommends include legumes, bell beans, oats, vetch, and mustards. Naturally emerging weeds such as chickweed and miners’ lettuce are also good as companion plants, helping protect the soil in winter rain.
Mulches, including straw (not hay), also stop the rain from compacting the soil.
Amy uses a pitchfork to work the soil at Petaluma Bounty Farm, where adobe clay is abundant. She digs down at least to the tines, she says. “The deeper you can cultivate your soil, the deeper the roots can go and get more nutrients.”
(You can pick up a Vegetable Planting Summary compiled by the Sonoma County Master Gardeners at The Seed Bank for more particulars on fall and winter crop planting or bring your planting questions to our in store horticulturalist, Gwen Kilchherr, who’s at the store Mondays through Wednesdays. And there are many opportunities to volunteer at the Petaluma Bounty Farm and learn about raising food crops firsthand. Visit www.petalumabounty.org for details.)
Post By GreenZone
Bills presented in statehouses across the country would ban taking photos of farms without the explicit consent of farm owners, in some instances, even if such photos are taken from a public right-of-way. Such bills have been introduced recently in Florida, New York and Iowa. In addition, several states already have similar laws on the books.
The proposed laws are aimed at so-called “whistle-blowers,” and seem to be part of a larger trend to protect factory farms from those who would “disparage food.” In recent years, animal rights groups have sent people posing as workers into plants to document their claims of extreme animal cruelty in slaughterhouses. In many cases they have obtained photos and video footage revealing mistreatment of animals and violations of food safety protocols.
Persons within the industry say that such laws are necessary to protect the image of factory farms and their operators. They also cite security concerns, likening some whistle-blowers’ activities to terrorism.
Some of the proposed legislation goes well beyond merely prohibiting taking such unauthorized photographs. The Iowa legislation specifically exempts persons taking photos from a public right of way. However, the bill would make possessing or distributing such photos a crime, even if the photos were obtained legally. (By way of comparison, the only material the mere possession of which is currently a crime, is child pornography and unauthorized possession of classified information.) The legislation creates a new class of criminal behavior called “animal facility interference.” Penalties would range up to 10 years in prison. Similar language is contained in both the Senate and House versions, Senate File 431 and House File 589, respectively.
A similar bill recently introduced in Minnesota, HF 1369, goes even further, defining a parallel violation that it calls “crop operation interference.” Penalties for violations would range up to 5 years’ imprisonment.
The Florida bill, SB 1246, was defeated recently, under pressure from a wide array of groups. Concerned parties ranged from the animal rights groups themselves, who worried that a valuable and hitherto legitimate tool in their campaign would suddenly become illegal, to media and photographers’ organizations, who cited Constitutional concerns. The bill would have made taking such photographs a first degree felony, and was criticized because it contained no exemption for those taking photos without trespassing on private property, such as professional photographers and even rural tourists, who occasionally take photos of farms in their travels.Randel Agrella (GreenZone) is a Baker Creek Employee and an life long gardener.