A group of 73 organic family farmers from across the country filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court last week to hear their case against agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto; and one of those farm families is from right here in the County. Wood Prarie Farm is home to certified organic foods; where crops like potatoes are grown in a natural manner without synthetic inputs that could contaminate it. But the owner of this farm along with 72 others including individual family farmers, independent seed companies, and farm organizations say a major corporation is threatening their livelihood. Jim Gerritsen owns Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, and he’s also the President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, a group consisting of close to 1,000 members.
Wood Prairie Farm owner Jim Gerritsen said, “For 2 and a half years we’ve been fighting Monsanto, Monsanto is trying to deny American farmers their access to the courts, they’re saying that we don’t have a right to bring them to trial to sue them.”
The issue, Gerritsen says, has to do with Monsanto’s transgenic patents. Not only do they want to challenge the validity of that patent. they also say that they shouldn’t be able to sue them for patent infringement. But why would an organic farmer worry about a major corporation suing his farm for using chemicals they never use in the first place? Organic Farmers claim that genetically engineered crops cause widespread contamination. Gerritsen says seed corn is one of the most easily contaminated crops because it’s pollen can be blown great distances by the wind.
Wood Prairie Farm owner Jim Gerritsen said, “Should Monsanto be growing corn on a farm within proximity, the wind could blow that pollen onto our farm and simply by virtue of that natural occurrence of the wind, we would be in violation of their patent under U.S. Patent law just because the wind blew that onto our farm. It’s their patented material and they can insert patent infringement rights against us should they so choose, that’s why we’ve gone to court.”
There are 400 certified organic farming operations in Maine, and about 20 of those are in Aroostook County.
Wood Prairie Farm owner Jim Gerritsen said, “We feel that farmers have a right to farm they way we chose on our farms, and that ultimately Monsanto does not have a right to trespass onto our farms, to violate our private property rights, and to ruin our crops.”
Gerritsen says he and the rest of the plaintiffs expect to hear from the Supreme Court in 4-6 months as to whether it will be able to take this case. Over 1 million citizens from the U.S. and Canada are represented in the plaintiff group of 73 that includes individual family farmers, independent seed companies, and farm organizations.