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


Forgery issue important, says lawyer

(Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- Media coverage of Monsanto's successful lawsuit last month against Eugene Stratemeyer for infringing the company's patents on soybean seed engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup largely overlooked an important point, says the lawyer who represented the defendant farmer.

"They sued Mr. Stratemeyer on a forged document," says his lawyer, Ronald E. Osman.

Although the jury in the Illinois federal court awarded Monsanto $16,000 in damages, far less than the $800,000 the St. Louis-based biotechnology company had sought, Osman says, the issue of forgery looms large.

During the trial, one seed dealer testified that he had forged the signatures of more than 140 farmers on the Technology User Agreements (TUAs) that accompany Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds. Another dealer recalled signing 30 names, he says. Both witnesses testified that the practice is widespread.

Attorneys representing Monsanto knew of the forgeries as recently as 1999, he says. But instead of requesting lists of all the forged names, the company was more concerned about asking the forgery victims to sign an agreement without informing them of what had happened in the first place.

Osman filed a class-action counter claim on the issue of the forgeries; a trial will be held later this year or next year.

No one from Monsanto's press office would comment on this story.

Please see the May 21, 2001 CropChoice story about Eugene Stratemeyer, "Monsanto still suing Nelsons, other growers," athttp://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=326

The following are excerpts from the opening statements that the Monsanto lead attorney, Kenneth R. Heineman, and Osman made during the trial last month.

1. Kenneth R. Heineman:

"...You may hear evidence -- you will hear evidence that Mr. Stratemeyer sold some saved brown bag seed. That will be in the case. And you will hear evidence that he has a God-given right to do that in his view. Well, unless you are a licensed seed man in the state of Illinois, selling brown bag seed in Illinois has been against the law, of the state of Illinois, and it violates the federal law, as well.

So when he sold the saved seed to our investigator, that was about making a buck. God's will didn't have anything to do with that. So we say only licensed growers can use the technology. We tell our seed companies, the companies we license to who actually grow the seed and sell it to their dealers, their seed company, we say, 'You can't sell it to a farmer who doesn't have a license.' The license allows them to enjoy it. But if a farmer uses it without a license, then he's using Monsanto's patented technology in violation of a patent and that's infringement. So he's supposed to get a license before he purchases the seeds.

And he gets a bag of seeds and on the bag it says this. This is what the bag says right here, right here. Just because you got the seeds doesn't give you a license, so even if somebody signed your name for you at the dealership, just because you got the seeds, you don't get a license from that. You've got to go and get a Monsanto license, and there's two ways to do it. You can sign a license contract, a TUA, or there's another way.

It's right on the invoice. It's an invoice to Gene Stratemeyer. 'If you initial that, you get a license. But you can't save it. You get a license for one year. You get a license for the seeds that you buy. You get to the plant them and harvest them and that's it. And you can't save them.' And that's what it says...

...Now, he claims this was a forgery. That these guys signed. These guys signed his name, no doubt about it. They'll tell you he bought the seed, and he was out on the farm, and he sent somebody else in to get it, and it was late in the season, and they didn't want to bother with it. They should have gone out and had him sign it, but they didn't, and they signed his name.

Why did they do it? To help them because then he would get all the deals that came with the Roundup Ready brand, all the programs. For if he had a washout of seed, he could get more seed for nothing, you know. Or maybe just the cost of the seed, not the tech fee. He would get it cheap. There are all kinds of programs, the evidence will show, that he got from Monsanto. Monsanto didn't know he didn't sign it. They get the TUA back. It's got Eugene Stratemeyer written on it. We didn't know. So he got the benefits..."

2. Ronald E. Osman:

"...What we believe and the evidence will show is that Monsanto Company, in order to stop saved seed and to put fear into the farmers, targeted certain areas of the country. Sent their investigators into their areas to entrap people so they could file suit against them and get a judgment so they could publicize it, and they did that and stigmatized these people by calling them seed pirates. You will see evidence of that as we go through.

What they decided to do was to use the technology user agreement and to come out as the policeman of the seed and enforce their technology.

We are going to show you evidence that will show that in 1997, 1998, 1999 Monsanto knew there was confusion. Monsanto knew that there was a lot of confusion out there about whether you could save seed if you hadn't signed the licensing agreement. They knew this. In addition, the evidence is going to show that Monsanto knew in 1998, approximately 20 days before the first Roundup Ready soybean sale to Mr. Stratemeyer, that [X] had forged another farmer's name. Monsanto knew this. Didn't do anything about it.

We are also going to show you that their own investigator and attorney were told in October of 1999 by [Seed dealer X] that he signed Mr. Stratemeyer's name to the documents and other farmers' names. And Monsanto didn't take any further action against [X] until they wrote him a letter in April of 2001. And then it was just to tell him not to sell to Mr. Stratemeyer. They didn't go check his records. They didn't ask who else's name he had signed. It's Monsanto's investigator and their attorney. And its attorneys to this date have not taken those two forged documents out of this court file. They're still here. They're still in the file.

The evidence is going to show that Mr. Stratemeyer did not ever sign a TUA. I am going to show that [X], Monsanto's agent, forged Mr. Stratemeyer's name to a technology agreement dated April the 20th, 1998. That Monsanto's agent, [Y], forged Mr. Stratemeyer's name to a technology value package, which is different than a technology user agreement. August 11th of 1997 and the technology user agreement sometime prior to July 31st of 1998 because it's not dated.

Now, you heard discussion about how they got rushed, and they were just doing it as a favor. Mr. [Y] will talk about table top signings where they signed the farmer's name during the time it was raining, and they couldn't be out working, and he would go to the computer, pull up the farmer's name, see how much he bought and make up the other information about how many acres of corn and bean. He just made that information up. Signed the farmer's name and sent it in.

Now, you are all asking, I'm sure, why would [X] do this? He's his friend. Why would [Y] do this? Why would Growmark allow it to happen? And why would Monsanto allow this to continue? It's not any different, the motive is not any different than every time you pick up the newspaper lately and see what's going on in the corporate world, greed and money. [X], [Y], FS got to continue to sell Monsanto's product. Growmark got a part of the technology fee back. Monsanto got the technology user agreement signed, and then they went on down the road..."