(Bloomberg News) Monsanto Co., the world's largest seed company, won the dismissal of a lawsuit by growers of organic crops seeking to have its patents for genetically altered seeds invalidated.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan threw out the organic growers' lawsuit in a ruling dated Feb. 24, saying it represented no controversy and that she had no jurisdiction over the suit.
Organic farmers, seed companies and food safety groups sued St. Louis-based Monsanto in March 2011 seeking court protection against possible lawsuits by the company for patent infringement if genetically modified crops were mistakenly found among their yields.
"There is no evidence that plaintiffs are infringing defendants' patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur," Buchwald wrote in her opinion.
The growers, claiming that Monsanto "aggressively asserted" its patent claims against hundreds of U.S. farmers, sought a ruling from Buchwald that the patents for genetically engineered seeds are invalid because they are "injurious."
They claimed transgenic seeds might contaminate their crops and that they don't want to have to fight Monsanto patent claims should that occur. The company has pursued "baseless litigation to intimidate farmers and restrict competition with its transgenic seed," according to the growers' complaint.
"Her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing," Daniel Ravicher, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail. "Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers."
Ravicher said the plaintiffs will appeal.
"The ruling makes it clear that there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company's patented seed products," David Snively, Monsanto's general counsel, said in a statement.