While a cow or goat may respect a property fence, pollen knows no such boundaries. Even if a farmer plants a field of non-GMO (not genetically modified) corn, she may still end up with some genetically engineered material on her farm if GMO pollen “drifts” over from a neighbor’s field. Monsanto has a history of taking farmers to court if they’re found to be in possession of patented plant material without permission, even if the plant material came to their fields inadvertently.
But now, tired of living in fear of lawsuits that they claim are unjust, a group of farmers, seed savers, and farm advocates is challenging the agribusiness giant’s right to continue the practice.
We’re inspired by this landmark case and today we’re happy to have more background and perspective to share with you from one of the plaintiffs, Tom Willey. Tom is an organic farmer in Madera, California and a Slow Food USA regional governor. Here are some highlights from our conversation about why this case matters to him, to his fellow farmers, and to consumers in general.
What is your role in the lawsuit? Why did you decide to get involved?
There are too many people in the agricultural community being picked off one by one over this issue of their crops being contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Everyone on the suit is potentially liable to be sued by Monsanto. The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) initiated this suit to deny Monsanto the right to sue farmers for being inadvertently contaminated with GMO genes.
If you stand by and watch your neighbors being abused and don’t do anything to back them up, there may not be anyone there to help you. It’s very difficult for individual farmers to defend themselves from legal onslaughts from Monsanto so we thought we best go after defending the whole farming community as a group. Luckily PUPBAT has the resources to help us make that happen and hopefully we’ll prevail.