E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Farmer says seed dealer forgery led to legal battle with Monsanto

(Monday, Dec. 2, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Knight-Ridder Tribune: METROPOLIS, Ill.-- Eugene Stratemeyer, a Southern Illinois farmer, discovered that he was in trouble with agribusiness giant Monsanto when U.S. marshals showed up at his Metropolis farm and confiscated his soybean seeds, the beginning of a two-year legal battle in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, waging technology against time-honored farming practices.

Monsanto obtained an injunction against the farmer after they determined he saved Roundup Ready soybeans, a genetically engineered soybean that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup, to replant the next year.

"I didn't know about this at all," Stratemeyer says. "I found out I couldn't replant my own seeds when the marshals showed up on my land and seized my soybeans. The first time I became aware of this was right then when I found out about the lawsuit."

Under a technology user's agreement farmers are supposed to sign when they purchase the seed, they are prohibited from saving seed for replanting or sale to other farmers.

But Stratemeyer, in a countersuit, claims he never signed such an agreement. The battle ended last week when a federal jury found Stratemeyer violated such an agreement with Monsanto when he saved and sold Monsanto's soybeans.

Stratemeyer contends the contract bans a traditional farming practice of saving seeds from the harvest for replanting next year, and they singled him out because of his stature in the community, adding, "I definitely feel that they went after me because I was a prominent farmer. They turned me into the proverbial sacrificial lamb. I was just a country boy and not familiar with the court system, but I didn't feel this was right."

Jurors in East St. Louis awarded Monsanto about $16,000 in damages, plus attorneys' fees and costs. However, the damage award is subject to a federal judge's review and could go up or down.

Even though the verdict went against Stratemeyer, his lawyer, Ronald E. Osman, said it still was a victory because the damages awarded were so much less than Monsanto's request of damages in excess of $800,000.

Testimony during the trial revealed seed dealers commonly sign farmers' names to the seed contracts, or receipts.

Osman has filed a class-action suit against the seed dealers for forging farmers' names on the contracts. The suit maintains that seed dealers are agents representing the company.