Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Assoc. Joins Suit Against Monsanto

Organic Farms and Seed Sellers File Suit Against Monsanto:

Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling That Would Prohibit Monsanto from Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers if Contaminated by Roundup Ready Seed

On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations, including the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed.

The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald.

Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses, and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it.  The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop.  For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination. Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too.  Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

“Consumers indicate, overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified organisms,” said Dr. Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director. “Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other farmers forego using them for other reasons. Yet the truth is that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates.  That is the inevitable consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the environment.  To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs. On behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this unconscionable business practice.”

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement.  One argument justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case.  Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

“Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher.  “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s, and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not.  Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association; Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm’s Sprouting
Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature’s Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

For a copy of the complaint, go to http://www.pubpat.org/assets/files/seed/OSGATA-v-Monsanto-Complaint.pdf.

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About OEFFA
OEFFA was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities. OEFFA also operates one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the nation, certifying more than 650 operations throughout the Midwest. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

About PUBPAT
The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. For more information, go to www.pubpat.org.

Market and CSA Preview at Wexner Center

Thu, Feb 24, 2011  |  5:30–7:00PM
Wexner Center Lower Lobby

Jaime  Moore of Wayward Seed Farm will be on hand before tonight’s Field &  Screen film to chat with guests about CSAs (Community Supported  Agriculture) and plans for the 2011 season at the Market at 15th &  High on the Wexner Center Plaza.

If you are farmer offering a CSA, a vendor at a Columbus area farmers’ market or a market representative come out to this event for some quality networking with other supporters of local food.

More Information

Food Safety for the Garden

Weds Mar 2 Food Safety for the Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory 6- 8 pm
Food safety expert Shari Plimpton, Ph.D., Director, Industry Outreach, CIFT, will discuss the fundamentals of proper food handling and good agriculture practices for community gardeners, urban growers and those involved in farmers’ markets. Registration required; space limited. Sponsored by Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Ohio Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Program and the Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program. Free with Conservatory admission. Location: 1771 East Broad St Columbus 43203. Web: http://www.fpconservatory.org  Contact: 614-645-8733.

Defining What is Local

We have all heard the term local food. But what does it mean? How local is local? Local is shorthand for an idea that doesn’t have a firm definition. Unlike organic standards, which entail specific legal definitions, inspection processes, and labels, local means different things to different people, depending on where they live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are looking for.


Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. The next ring out might be food grown in our immediate community – then state, region, and country. For some parts of the year in Ohio it’s easy to eat local with lots of produce available from local farms. In winter and early spring, however, eating local requires adjustment to what is available for the season. This is an opportunity to learn about the cycles of how food is produced and will bring us closer to nature and our environment.

For me local means produced within my state of Ohio. Clearly there are some foods that are produced much more locally than others. All things being equal, we should give preference for that which is most local, starting with the food we produce or gather in our own backyards.

How do you define local and why?

Good News for the Local Food Movement

Good News for the Local and Regional Food Movement

President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act today, after a long bout of legislative wrangling by local food advocates, small farmers and their allies for food safety rules that protect consumers without curbing the growing movement toward fresh, local and regional food.  The food safety bill passed by the House in July of 2009 would have imposed a one size fits all regulatory system biased toward  industrial agriculture with a regressive registration fee, expensive food safety plans, and regular on-farm FDA inspections regardless of the degree of the potential risk for food borne illness.  The new regulatory burdens threatened to erect formidable barriers to the developing local and regional markets for many small and moderate sized farms.

In the past two years, small farm advocates worked to win small and mid-size farm amendments to the legislation.  One organization that was key to the efforts was the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The  amendments incorporated into the Food Safety Modernization Act and signed today by the President include:

Continue reading

Food Safety Bill Passes, Now Goes to President Obama

Earlier today the House of Representatives passed  H.R. 2751 The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act with 215 voting for and 144 against.  Ten Republicans voted for the bill (see Final Vote). This is the bill that the Senate passed by voice vote on Sunday, December 19th, with the Tester-Hagan amendment protecting small farms intact.

The food safety bill hit a roadblock after passing the Senate in late November because a provision requiring the collection of user fees violated the Constitutional mandate that all revenue-generating measures must originate in the House.  House leaders then attached the bill as an amendment to two separate spending bills, neither of which were able to gain Republican support in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) circumvented the original technical mistake by attaching the bill to a House-originated measure (HR 2751) authorizing a cash-for-clunkers program – a “shell bill” with bipartisan support.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who had threatened to filibuster S.510 in November, dropped his objection at the last minute, allowing the food safety bill to pass unanimously.  The Washington Post reported this morning that Coburn staffer John Hart did not know why the Senator relented.

Text of the Bill: HR2751

President Obama is expected to sign the bill before Christmas.

Ohio Local Foods and Farming News

Events


Thursday, January 13:
Ohio Neighborhood Harvest:  Demonstration of, and Best Practices for Creating Fruit and Vegetable Oases in Food Deserts
Public meeting with Kara Martin, Expert for National Healthy Corner Stores and hosted by the Center for Farmland Policy Innovation at The Ohio State University and made possible by a 2010 Ohio Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant and is part of the Ohio Food Policy Council’s Ohio Neighborhood Harvest.  Ms. Martin will discuss healthy food retailing as an economic development tool to increase community access to healthy foods.  She will discuss the challenges of healthy food retailing, share exemplary projects from across the country, and address opportunities for policy and system changes.  The purpose of this event is to give local organizations and individuals interested in healthy food access and opportunity to learn from a topical expert who has worked in corner stores across Seattle.  The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will be held in room 105, Agricultural Administration Building, 2120 Fyffe Road on the OSU Campus.  A reception will follow the event. The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required by January 6, 2011.  To register send an e-mail to Jess Gambacurta (gambacurta.1@osu.edu).  To learn more, visit CFFPI’s project page – http://cffpi.osu.edu/oases.htm

Tuesday & Wednesday, January 25 & 26:
2011 Ohio Farm Management Conference
sponsored by Ohio State University Extension and OSU’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics at the University Plaza Hotel, Columbus, OH.  Six general sesssions are offered covering topics such as employee management, farm transition planning, the perception of agriculture, and agricultural and environmental policy.  Registration is $75 per person and $60 per additional employee or family member paid before January 7 (after Jan. 7 the fee is $125/person and $100 per additional employee or family member.  Registration includes meals, conference proceedings, and conference parking.  For additional information and to register, visit:  http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu/2011-ohio-farm-management-conference/ or contact John Yost at 740-335-1150 or via e-mail:  yost.77@osu.edu

Saturday & Sunday, February 19 & 20:
The 32nd Annual Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) Conference – Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities
featuring keynote speakers, Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, organic farmers since 1993 and owners  and operator’s of New York’s only dedicated organic feed mill and organic seed operation and Joan Dye Gussow author of several books, including This Organic Life and most recently, Growing Older.  For more information, including the schedule and a listing of workshops and to register, visit:  http://www.oeffa.org/conference2011.php

On-Going 8 Week Program in Several Locations Starting in January 2011
The Southern Ohio New and Small Farm College
is an 8-week program that introduces new and seasoned farmers to a wide variety of agricultural production topics to help them diversify and explore new enterprises and new markets.  The program teaches participants how to set goals, plan, budget, and where to find resources available to help start a small farm operation.  The course will layout how to manage financial and farm records.  Extension educators will illustrate many different enterprises that can be profitable on land as small as one acre.  A bus tour is included to visit are farms and to see first hand how small farm life works and to assist in making contacts with practicing farmers in the area.  Previous Southern Ohio New and Small Farm Colleges have helped 420 individuals representing 338 farms from 43 Ohio counties improve economic development of their small family owned farms.
Registration is $150 per person and $50 for each additional family member.  Registration is limited to the first 50 participants per location.  Registration fee includes resource materials, a soil test, refreshments and a bus tour.  For more information, contact Tony Nye at 937-382-0901 or e-mai:  nye.1@osu.edu or visit:  http://clinton.osu.edu/events/2011-small-farm or http://clinton.osu.edu/events/2011-new-and-small-farm-college-classes

Announcements


Job Opportunity – Center for Closing the Health Gap
The Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati is seeking a Community Health Program Coordinator.  The Center is a nonprofit organization leading the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in Greater Cincinnati through advocacy, education and community outreach.  For more information, visit:  http://www.closingthehealthgap.org or e-mail:  ClosingTheGap@uchealth.com

Job Opportunity – OEFFA is currently accepting applications for two positions:
Organic Educator. http://www.oeffa.org/documents/OrganicEducatorFeb.2011FINAL.pdf

Bookkeeper/Office Manager.  http://www.oeffa.org/documents/Bookkeeper-OfficeManagerDec2010.pdf

Fellowship Opportunity – Master’s or Ph.D. Level Studies in Rural Sociology and associated fields of sociological inquiry, including Environmental/Natural Resource Sociology, Sociology of Agricutlure and Food Systems or Development Sociology at The Ohio State University

Please consider or forward this announcement to prospective graduate students as appropriate regarding an opportunity for Master’s or Ph.D. level studies in Rural Sociology and associated fields of sociological inquiry, including Environmental/Natural Resource Sociology, Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems or Development Sociology.  The Rural Sociology specialization in the School of Environment and Natural Resources is seeking high quality applicants for at least three fellowship worthy candidates.  Qualified students may also be considered for teaching and research associateships depending on school and faculty needs.

Fellowship awards are for one and possibly multiple years and include stipend, tuition and fees, with additional years of support possible via teaching or research associateships.  Fellowship awards are available beginning in Fall, 2011.  To be considered for a fellowship, applications for graduate study are due by January 15, 2011. Contact Amy Schmidt (Schmidt.442@osu.edu or 614-292-9883) for guidance regarding submission of an application and contact Jeff Sharp (sharp.123@osu.edu or 614-292-9410) for further detail about graduate studies in Rural Sociology.  See http://senr.osu.edu/ for more information about the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State and http://senr.osu.edu/Future_Graduate_Students/Rural_Sociology.htm for information specific to the rural sociology specialization.

Graduate studies in Rural Sociology offers in depth training in the core fields of rural sociology, including the Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems, Environmental and Natural Resource Sociology, and Development Sociology.  Additional faculty strengths exist in topical areas such as rural crime and community sociology.  Studies also include training in sociological theory, research methods and statistics.  An additional strength of this program is its close association with other social scientists in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (including faculty trained in decision-science, public policy, and law) as well as natural scientists with expertise in the environmental sciences, soils, wildlife, water quality, etc.   Recent students in Rural Sociology have explored topics related to local food systems, water resource management, animal welfare, sustainable agriculture, rural poverty, gender and development, and immigration.  Students and faculty engage in research both within the U.S. and in different global settings with research emphasis spanning theory, applied work, public-sociology, and policy.  Recent graduates have taken positions in both academic and applied settings (such as government agencies and nongovernmental organizations).

Online Farm Link Tool for Beginning Farmers

On Monday, December 13, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of TIP Net, an online tool to help link retiring farmers who have expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts with beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers who want to buy or rent land for their operations.

Under the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency, retired or retiring owners or operators with expiring CRP contracts can receive up to two additional annual rental payments if they sell or lease the CRP land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers who are interested in bringing the land into production using sustainable grazing or crop production methods, including transitioning to organic.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition » Archive » USDA Introduces Online Farm Link Tool for Beginning Farmers.