BOARD RECOMMENDS DISMISSAL OF GMO SUIT
April 23, 2001
Brian Witte, Associated Press
BISMARCK, ND - A state board says it has not found enough evidence to support a
lawsuit against a Cass County, N.D., farm accused of violating a
company's patent by replanting genetically engineered soybean seeds
Nelson Farm, which is operated by Greg, Roger and Rodney Nelson near
Amenia, is being sued in federal court in Missouri by St. Louis-based
Monsanto, which develops the seeds.
"The Nelsons presented substantial evidence suggesting that they did
not save any of their seed from an earlier year and replant it," reported
Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson after the April 19 vote by the
North Dakota Seed Arbitration Board.
Nelsons went to the board in January for a recommendation in the
dispute. The board based its findings ona hearing held in
March. Its recommendation is nonbinding, but could be used as
evidence in court.
"We knew all along we hadn't done anything wrong," says Roger Nelson, who
raises about 8,600 acres of wheat and soybeans in the Amenia, N.D., area
with his sons.
Lori Fisher, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, says the company did not attend
the March hearing because it did not think a state seed arbitration
panel was the proper venue to talk about patent infringement.
"Monsanto has been and continues to be ready to settle this entire matter
with the Nelsons," she says. "We've offered time and again to sit down
with them privately and resolve this, and that hasn't happened yet."
The company contends the Nelsons violated a contract by planting seed in
1999 that had been saved from the previous year. The genetically
engineered soybeans are immune to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
The company sent an investigator to the farm in July 1999, after the
company received an anonymous telephone call. The investigator called
back several days later to tell Greg Nelson there had been no
But in November 1999, the Nelsons got a call from an Indianapolis firm
that represented Monsanto. The company wanted to inspect their fields
again, and two more investigators arrived two days later.
Last July, an attorney wrote that a sampling team had found genetically
altered soybeans in some of the fields the Nelsons say were conventional
beans and that lab tests proved it.
Johnson says the investigation was done in a very unscientific,
"The evidence indicated that they very likely sampled the wrong fields,
fields that weren't even the Nelsons," Johnson says.
Fisher says the investigators sampled the fields the Nelsons says were
"We were following the information that they gave us on which fields to
sample," Fisher says.
When the two investigators came out, Roger Nelson says his son offered
to take them to the fields.
"They said no. They were professionals. They could handle it, so we
didn't accompany either one or weren't invited to," Roger Nelson says.
Johnson says the company's legal action was "overbearing" and
"unprofessional," and he says the crop did not yield well in the first
"They'd be fools to save that seed and replant
it," he says.