Over the last week there have been three court rulings around the world against GMO corporate plunder and in favor of biodiversity, democracy, and freedom.
I wrote about a Mexican court’s injunction against lawless government approvals of GM maize field trials and commercialization. Some semblance of the rule of law also still exists in Brazil’s courts.
Over the last two years Brazilian soy farmers have won a string of court victories against Monsanto’s tax on soy seeds and processing. Monsanto was collecting this tax based on patents which had already expired, were illegitimate in the first place, and which violated Brazilian seed law, which allows saving of seeds. These court rulings threatened a body blow to Monsanto, perhaps damages running into the billions as well as the inability to enforce its enclosure regime. But this past summer the Brazilian soy farmer association Famato, which had been organizing the legal campaign, made a deal with Monsanto to sell out the farmers.
The farmers were looking to collect billions in restituted “royalties” (i.e., the Monsanto tax), money they could use to purchase higher-quality non-GM seeds, as growing numbers of them wish to do. But according to the deal brokered by their alleged representative, they would “collect” only in the form of a rebate on the tax on Monsanto’s new product, Roundup Ready 2 Intacta stacked soybeans. So to get anything, they’d have to stay on the GMO treadmill.
Worse, to join the deal, a farmer would have to sign a contract agreeing to: waive all right to collect the stolen royalties; submit to more harsh and pedantic inspection and conformance policies than under previous Monsanto contracts; waive all future right to sue over failed harvests (this is now a standard feature of Monsanto’s “warranty”, as superweeds become ever more aggressive; Monsanto guarantees the GM crop is resistant to Roundup, but it disavows any claim that Roundup will work against weeds at all); and sign a statement relinquishing all rights under Brazilian seed law and recognizing the legitimacy and prerogative of Monsanto’s patent regime.
Now a judge has invalidated parts of the “agreement” on the grounds that it would constitute a coercive contract, on account of Monsanto’s dominant market position. The technical term for this is a “contract of adhesion”, and such contracts are supposed to be ruled invalid and unenforceable by the courts. Needless to say, this never happens in the US. In 2011, in AT&T vs. Concepcion, the US “supreme court” completely repudiated the concept.
But in some parts of the world it’s still possible for the people to use the courts. We’re just now seeing that in Mexico too.
And now we have a trifecta. In India, the High Court of the state of Karnataka has dismissed petitions seeking to quash criminal indictments of several high-level university and corporate officials for acts of biopiracy in connection with the development of Bt brinjal (eggplant), currently the subject of a moratorium on field testing. In India, biopiracy is supposed to be treated legally as the criminal theft it is. An environmental group, the Environmental Support Group (ESG), fought for several years politically and in the courts to finally get the National Biodiversity Authority and the Karnataka State Biodiversity Board to conduct a full investigate which led to the criminal indictments. After a stay for much of 2013, the High Court has reaffirmed the indictments, and it’s now time for the state to prosecute. (We shouldn’t hold our breaths, though. Throughout, the state machinery has been as dilatory as you’d expect. That’s why the ESG has had to keep suing. Nor do we view even criminal prosecutions as “the system works!” But we should be counterattacking in all available ways including those which are at all possible under system procedures.)
So we see that in some courts, though not those of the US, a robbery is still treated as a robbery. Therefore a criminal matter.
Not that I think this war is ultimately going to be won anywhere in the courts. But at least in some places the courts are still a contested battleground.