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Anti-biotech groups' show flops

Published on March 9, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on April 6, 2012 8:09AM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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If you thought Hollywood was the center of the show business world, you were only partially right. When it comes to legal razzle-dazzle, a federal courtroom in New York must be included.

That's where 60-some anti-Monsanto groups and individuals argued that the biotech company was in some sense wrong to protect its patents, which they claimed should be voided because they were "injurious to the well-being, good policy and sound morals of society."

They also wanted the judge to stop Monsanto from suing organic growers. They called the company a "patent bully" and wanted it to pledge never to sue any of them under any circumstances.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald saw the lawsuit for what it was -- a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists." She then drop-kicked it out of her court.

Of course, the group's lawyer was incensed that the judge could be so dense as to not agree with his arguments. He said the judge made a "legal error."

We get the feeling that this was not about an actual threat to organic growers so much as an attempt at making Monsanto look bad.

Monsanto does protect its patents -- as does any other patent holder. When a farmer purposely saves patented seed, then Monsanto does seek to protect its legal rights. So far Monsanto has sued 144 farmers who saved seed. None were organic farmers.

Monsanto also submitted a letter to the court that said it wouldn't sue over "trace amounts" of patented genes inadvertently found on organic farms.

"Importantly, this ruling tore down a historic myth which is commonly perpetuated against our business by these plaintiffs and other parties through the Internet, noting that not only were such claims unsubstantiated but, more importantly, they were unjustified," said David Snively, the company's general counsel.

Therein lies the issue. Many anti-biotech and anti-Monsanto groups populate their websites with theories regarding genetically modified seeds. They seek to convince each other and the public that using a seed that requires less pesticide, fewer inputs and less tillage is morally wrong.

We support organic farmers and their efforts to produce healthful food. It is a high calling. And it is a calling they share with other farmers and ranchers, including those who grow genetically modified crops.

That common ground should be recognized as an opportunity to declare peace and send the lawyers home.

"All my clients want is to be left alone," the plaintiffs' lawyer told Capital Press in an e-mail.

We'd bet Monsanto's lawyers feel the same way.


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