Monsanto-Scruggs trial resumes after day off for holiday

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

A federal court jury begins its second week Tuesday to determine how much a Lee County agricultural operation must pay farm giant Monsanto.
Monsanto wants $10 million in damages from businessmen Mitchell and Eddie Scruggs and their associated enterprises for replanting the company’s patented seeds.
The Greenville trial began Aug. 30 and is scheduled for three weeks before U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr.
Last Thursday, Scruggs’ attorneys asked the judge to declare a mistrial, which would stop the proceedings, at least temporarily.
Pepper hasn’t responded to the motion.
Defense attorneys insist the jury cannot consider the case fairly after repeated “inflammatory references” to crimes and criminality during opening statements by Monsanto’s attorneys.
Monsanto’s legal team answers that the objections came too late, and that it should be enough that Pepper admonished the jury that no crime is involved in the case.
The proceedings ended at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with Monsanto still presenting its case. Court minutes note they’ll resume after the Labor Day holiday.
This legal battle has been going on since Sept. 7, 2000, when Monsanto sued the Scruggses and five of their business operations.
Monsanto sought to stop them from saving and replanting patented seeds.
Ultimately, across years of legal wrangling all the way to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and back, the defendants admitted what they had done.
Now, Monsanto wants financial damages.
Monsanto owns the patent on inserting a modified gene into crop seeds so that the plants grown from those seeds are resistant to certain herbicides and insects that feed on the plants.
When those plants produce seeds, they retain the resistance to herbicides and insects.
The company insisted that it’s invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the soybean, cotton and other seeds. If farmers are allowed to replant the seeds, Monsanto said, effectively, it loses control of its rights.
During the early days of the controversy, Mitchell Scruggs became a leader in the save-our-seeds movement, and one of his attorneys, Jim Waide of Tupelo, has said the corporation is out to make an example of him.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 687-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.