Friday, March 13, 2009

State law: farmers' rights vs. Monsanto

Rodney Nelson says he’s tried to forget the “living hell” Monsanto unleashed on his family nine years ago. In 2000, Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, sued Nelson and his family for allegedly infringing its seed patents – meaning illegally saving patented seed – on their North Dakota farm. Monsanto’s case was based on samples the company’s hired investigators claimed they took from the Nelson’s fields. The North Dakota Seed Arbitration Board called the evidence against the Nelsons insubstantial, but Monsanto continued its aggressive legal pursuit to take what would have amounted to three times the entire gross value of the Nelson’s crop, plus punitive damages and attorney fees. And the company sent letters to more than 250 seed distributors in a three-state region instructing them not to sell its products to the Nelsons, effectively painting the family as criminals overnight. Eventually Monsanto and the Nelson family dismissed their cases against each other. The Nelsons’ fight with Monsanto left scars, yet it also left legislation that protects farmers from enduring similar intrusive investigations. North Dakota legislators passed a law that established a crop sampling protocol that patent holders must follow to level the playing field for farmers who face patent infringement allegations. It’s dubbed the “Nelson Bill.”...New West

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