To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Saturday, June 15, 2024


Food And Politics



Sharon MartinA few years ago I saw a farmer friend plow up a good portion of his organic crops because his neighbor’s insecticide sprayed over his field. His crops were his livelihood, and he had no recourse when they were destroyed. It is not against the law to contaminate a neighboring farmer’s field.

However … if your field is contaminated by pollen from patented seeds, you are breaking the law if you harvest and sell the crop. The sheer cheekiness takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association [OSGATA], put it this way: “Can you imagine if a person decided to paint their house purple on a windy day, and as they’re spraying their purple paint, it’s blowing all over the next-door neighbor’s white house. But instead of having to pay their neighbor for ruining their house, the guy with the purple house sues his neighbor for taking some of his purple paint.”

Think this is far-fetched? According to Aviva Shen, writing for Think Progress, Monsanto spends about $10 million a year and employs 75 people whose sole job is to investigate and sue farmers who infringe on their patents, even when the infringement is caused by wind pollination.

Over 300,000 people – farmers, seed growers, and agricultural organizations – brought suit against Monsanto [OSGATA, et al v. Monsanto]. Judges considered the suit to “have merit,” so it advanced through lower courts. The Supreme Court, however, declined to hear the case.

The upshot? Monsanto can sue the farmers, but the farmers can’t sue Monsanto.

Whoever controls food production controls the people. Right now, it appears that Monsanto is in control.

Here are a few things we all can do to gain back control of our food systems:

Support your local farmers. Join a CSA. Become a member of the Oklahoma Food Coop. Buy from the farmers’ market nearest you. Plant your own garden. Join Seed-Savers Exchange. Support seed companies that sell organic and open-pollinated seeds.

You can find information about local, regional, and national seed companies from Oklahoma Food Coop and from Off-Grid Info.

Write your Congressman. Let your lawmaker know that allowing farmers to be subjected to bullying tactics is just plain wrong.

Just because the Supreme Court won’t act to protect farmers, doesn’t mean that we, the people, are out of options. We may not control the purse strings; that would be corporations and lobbyists. But we control the vote.

If our legislators refuse to act on our behalf, let them know that we do vote … and they won’t be getting ours.

Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer



  1. I remember my grandfather’s 40-acre farm and where we had a half acre garden to help feed our family. On reading this article, I can see where this is completely one sided and unfair to the organic farmers. It seems unfair to me because the farmer just wants to be able to grow their produce organically, whereas, Monsanto is experimenting with their seeds. Do they consider the damage they may have done to the farmer by contaminating their crops?

    They can sue the farmer for having their seeds thanks to wind pollination. So now not only is the farmer out the money they have been sued for, but they are also lost out because their crops were contaminated and that’s money that the farmer may direly need for the survival of his family and business. So the farmer gets punished twice while Monsanto get off free and clear. I’m sorry but I think Monsanto needs to at least have to pay for the contaminated crops. Without Monsanto having to pay for the damage they cost, we will soon not have any organic farmers left.

    Where will the people of this country be then? Especially those with specific allergies that have to have the organic crops? Our country is in dire needs for food to battle our child hunger problems and yet we are allowing whoever controls food production to control the people. It’s not fair to the small farmers who are just trying to make a living and help feed our nation.

    We need to seriously think about how this is affecting our country and what it is teaching the next generation of americans…

  2. I understand how he must have felt was there any communication between your friend and his neighbor before this happened? It sounds being on speaking terms with
    The guys next door would have either saved his crops or it might have helped his legal position or help some legislation

  3. I completely agree, how is something like this even possible? The sheer magnitude of selfishness and greed is overwhelming. The organic farmers work so hard to grow crops that are truly good for us, not poisoned with pesticides and other things. Monsanto is just making that task even harder. Farmer’s markets are such a wonderful thing, the organic food is drastically better for us than the chemically engineered stuff most others sell. I watched a short video of a little girl and her science project. She wanted to see how long it would take for a potato in water to sprout vines and leaves. The potato from a local grocery store took about 3 weeks to sprout a few small leaves. The ‘organic’ potato from the same store took about 3 weeks to sprout a few more leaves than the first. The true organic potato from the farmer’s market took only days to go from a potato to what looked like a small tree. She informed the viewers no matter how hard you scrubbed the fruit or vegetable you could not get the “bad stuff” off because it soaks completely through. It goes to show how important organic fruit is for our bodies and also how important it is to stand up and fight for our organic farmers.

  4. This irritates me to no end. The President that wants this country to be so HEALTHY, won’t back the farmers that are trying to do just that. You can definitely tell the difference, in taste and how long the product last, from Wal-Mart and a Farmers market. It is worth the extra drive and the extra cost to get the better product. The farmers that grow those half ass products, shouldn’t call themselves farmers. True farmers let their crops grow at its own pace without all those chemicals helping it grow more. Crops are not able to cure all the way. Voting, looks like the only way we are going to change the growing process of these crops. Definitely one sided in the courts.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
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Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.