Ex Monsanto Lawyer Clarence Thomas to Hear Major Monsanto Case

In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. This is Monsanto's third appeal of the case, and if they win a favorable ruling from the high court, a deregulated Monsanto may find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops, and to litigate conventional farmers into oblivion.

Here's where it gets a bit dicier. Two Supreme Court justices have what appear to be direct conflicts of interest.

Stephen Breyer 
Charles Breyer, the judge who ruled in the original decision of 2007 which is being appealed, is Stephen Breyer's brother, who apparently views this as a conflict of interest and has recused himself.

Clarence Thomas 
From the years 1976 - 1979, Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto. Thomas apparently does not see this as a conflict of interest and has not recused himself.

Fox, meet henhouse.



The lawsuit was filed by plantiffs which include the Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Dakota Resources Council and other farm, environmental and consumer groups and individual farmers. The original decision:

The federal district court in California issued its opinion on the deregulation of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa pursuant to the Plant Protection Act on February 13, 2007.   Upon receiving Monsanto’s petition for deregulation of the alfalfa seed, APHIS conducted an Environmental Assessment and received over 500 comments in opposition to the deregulation.  The opposition’s primary concern was the potential of contamination.  APHIS, however, made a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and approved the deregulation petition, thereby allowing the seed to be sold without USDA oversight.  Geertson Seed Farms, joined by a number of growers and associations, filed claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)  as well as the Endangered Species Act and Plant Protection Act.  In regards to NEPA, they argued that the agency should have prepared an EIS for the deregulation.

Addressing only the NEPA claims, the court agreed that APHIS should have conducted an EIS because of the significant environmental impact posed by deregulation of the alfalfa seed.  A realistic potential for contamination existed, said the court, but the agency had not fully inquired into the extent of this potential.  The court also determined that APHIS did not adequately examine the potential effects of Roundup Ready alfalfa on organic farming and the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds and that there were “substantial questions” raised by the deregulation petition that the agency should have addressed in an EIS.  Concluding that the question of whether the introduction of the genetically engineered alfalfa and its potential to affect non-genetic alfalfa posed a significant environmental impact necessitated further study, the court found that APHIS’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered the agency to prepare an EIS.  The court later enjoined the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa from March 30, 2007, until completion of the EIS and reconsideration of the deregulation petition, except for those farmers who had already purchased the seed.  In May of 2007, the court enjoined any future planting of the alfalfa.  An order by the court in June, 2007 required disclosure of all Roundup Ready planting sites.

Monsanto filed appeals in 2008 and 2009. In both instances, they were unsuccessful in having the original decision reversed, so they appealed to the Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case.

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the United States, behind corn, soybeans, and wheat.

South Dakota alfalfa farmer Pat Trask, one of the plaintiffs, said Monsanto's biotech alfalfa would ruin his conventional alfalfa seed business because it was certain his 9,000 acres would be contaminated by the biotech genes.

Alfalfa is very easily cross-pollinated by bees and by wind. The plant is also perennial, meaning GMO plants could live on for years.

"The way this spreads so far and wide, it will eliminate the conventional alfalfa industry," said Trask. "Monsanto will own the entire alfalfa industry."

Monsanto has a policy of filing lawsuits or taking other legal actions against farmers who harvest crops that show the presence of the company's patented gene technology. It has sued farmers even when they have tried to keep their own fields free from contamination by biotech plants on neighbouring farms.

The case has implications beyond alfalfa crops. About eight hundred reviewed genetically engineered food applications were submitted to the USDA, yet no environmental impact statements were prepared. Even as this diary is being written, a federal judge in San Francisco is reviewing a similar case involving genetically modified sugar beets. The decision is expected this week and could halt planting and use of the gm sugar beets, which account for half of America's sugar supply.

Back to the Supreme Court case, oral argument is slated to begin on April 27, 2010. With Breyer recused and Thomas opting not to recuse, the bench appears to be heavily tilted to Monsanto.

Once more with feeling. Fox, meet henhouse.


If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

Jade Green (anonymous)

This is a TRAVESTY! HUGE CONFLICT OF INTEREST. How can it even be legal for Clarence Thomas to have any part in this? Monsanto is the most crooked, even entity ever born into this world. And America's "justice" system, and government officials who have allowed and continue to allow them to poison the world with their tainted seeds, ILLEGAL PATENTS, herbacide, and pesticide drinking crops should ALL be punished to the fullest degree of the law. UNCONSTITUTIONAL FROM START TO FINISH! From the corporate executives all the way to the highest office in the White House. Yes! I said it! So sue me too.

Written in May 2010

Annie (anonymous)

I'm from California and am taking a class on the global issues brought on by capitalist/consumerist culture. In this class, I learned things I never knew about the farming industry and about how corporate farms like Monsanto are effing things up for America and for the rest of the world by pulling crap like this. The Supreme Court means nothing anymore. They uphold nothing except greed. It seems so un-American to allow Monsanto to monopolize and destroy the smaller farmers who have made our country the agricultural pillar it is. Or was.

Written in May 2010

Sylvia W (anonymous)

If he won't recuse himself then Thomas must be forced to step back. Nobody who is so contaminated by close contact with Monsanto has any business passing judgment on a case of this importance!

Written in May 2010

EcoTort Theatre (anonymous)

criminal abusers

Written in May 2010

Evan Ravitz (anonymous)

It's worse than you say: SCOTUS nominee Kagan as Solicitor General has already interfered in an unusual way for Monsanto: http://food.change.org/blog/view/elena_kagans_monsanto_moment

Written in June 2010

Len Aldis (anonymous)

Unfortunately for justice, this is not the first time that Justice Thomas has sat in on a case that has a clear conflict of interest.
In 2005 lawyers for the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange - a chemical contaminated by Dioxin and manufactured by Monsanto and other U.S. companies - appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, an appeal that was denied. One of the Justice's was Thomas. Although he had worked for Monsanto he refused to stand down from the case, a decision that was a disgrace to justice, and so he continues to act today in the same fashion.
That must be action to stop such procedures.
Len Aldis. Secretary
Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society

Written in January 2011

Missy (anonymous)

We need all stand together and protest!!! NOW!

Written in March 2011

Michele Damodaran (anonymous)

If this shocks and angers you, join the Millions Against Monsanto (Google for website) and let your voice be heard.

Written in April 2011

EricG (anonymous)

This is just a drop in the ocean. Consider the following....

List of former-Monsanto players now in government roles:

Tom Vilsack, the pro-biotech former governor of Iowa, now head of the USDA
Michael Taylor, the former Monsanto Vice President, now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods
Roger Beachy, the former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Islam Siddiqui, the former Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, now the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative
Rajiv Shah, the former Gates Foundation agricultural-development director served as Obama’s USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist, now head of USAID
Ramona Romero, the corporate counsel to Dupont, nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture

These appointments by President Obama clearly tilt the cards in favor of Monsanto and the biotech companies who are threatening our global food supply.

Google any one of the names above for a history of industry victories.

Written in May 2011

anonymous (anonymous)

I cannot believe that Clarence Thomas isn't recusing himself. He was an attorney for the damn Monsanto corporation, how is this not a conflict of interest? If we the people don't step up and protest this sort of behavior, corrupt groups will take advantage of us.

Written in October 2011

anonymous (anonymous)

Somebody Quick... Change.org! Get him removed!

Written in February 2012

anonymous (anonymous)

there is so much more to this they didn't get the pipe line approved so it all makes since that they the government and big corp, greed wants the land this is their way of getting the farmers to either give up or go bankrupt. thus giving them the land to lay that pipe line anyway... they will say then it's private land they can do as they please...therefore we wouldn't be able to stop them then.I do belive our Government is capiable of doing such devious deeds,,,look what they did during the 80's; stealing all the farms... for their own self greed ... this is all in the same catagory!!! they will stop at nothing to get what they want, when it comes to the almighty buck... Believe me my family lived through that hell !!!

Written in February 2012

graham (anonymous)

when do we start taking up arms against our oppressors? having i been lulled into non-action by my comfortable way of life? when do we get REALLY pissed off? when is it enough?

Written in February 2012

One (anonymous)

Its to late people. We stood around to long doing nothing. Now we suffer the consequences. Every person on this planet has their hand in this and every travesty, from now until the total fall and collapse of social order. We made our beds now lie in them. graham, we missed it. Getting REALLY PISSED OF should have happened yesterday. If it doesn't happen today it wont happen tomorrow.

Written in February 2012

haled (anonymous)

So do you feel the same about Kegan and Sodimeyer hearing the healthcare debates? You do realize Obama is the one allowing this.

Written in February 2012

hmmm.. (anonymous)

I think he's as likely to side against Monsanto. I mentioned his name with a bunch of other Monsanto puppets and he told me to look into it. I figured his biography was a good place to get a feel for whether he saw them as hero, villain or neutral.

In Chapter 5, Golden Handcuffs, Thomas lists Monsanto as his first big job after law school. He talked about how he began to see them as being responsible for the sicknesses of neighbors in the agricultural community where he was raised. He says he drank regularly while there until accepting an offer to give up the compensation package and the quality of life and move to Washington.

It doesn't sound like he'd be predisposed to side with them, unlike others in the federal justice system.

Written in April 2012

hmmm... (anonymous)

Sorry, that ^ should have read: "I mentioned his name with a bunch of other Monsanto puppets *to my dad* and he told me to look into it.

Written in April 2012

Anon (anonymous)

It was a 7-1 ruling not written by Clarence Thomas about a product that didn't exist when he worked at Monsanto 30 years ago. OMG CONSPIRACY!

Written in December 2012

Steven Edwards (anonymous)

before anybody jumps to any conclusions, lets see what happens...then air your protests..

Written in December 2012

Bob Kroepel (anonymous)

The claim herein, which is an opinion and not a claim of fact since C Thomas and other US SC Justices have not yet ruled on the case, is that C Thomas is biased towards Monsanto.

The commentor identified as hmmm has stated as a claim of fact that in a book written by C Thomas there are words attributed to C Thomas of which words their normal meanings clearly indicate to normal people that C Thomas was not happy about what he knew to be Monsanto's policies and practices and that he was happy to get another job and thereby exit Monsanto.

There is a possibility that if C Thomas is biased he is biased against Monsanto. Any Monsanto lawyer who knows of C Thomas's comments inre Monsanto in the book he—C Thomas—wrote would advise making a claim of bias/conflict-of-interest and ask (1) for C Thomas to recuse himself or (2) for the other US SC Justices to recuse/remove C Thomas from the case (if that is possible).

For C Thomas to be biased towards/against Monsanto and thereby against/towards the best interests of the American people and potentially ruling against the laws in the US Legal Code, he—C Thomas—would have to have a MOTIVATION to so rule.

Q: What would be C Thomas's MOTIVATION to rule in FAVOR of Monsanto regardless of the legal issues of the case?
A: _____ (?)

Written in December 2012

Samuel T (anonymous)

IF, C Thomas was in fact employed over 33 years ago by Monsanto, as an attorney, this does NOT remotely qualify as a Conflict of Interest in hearing and ruling on the issues on Appeal. A Justice does not simply cast a vote for or against One Party, They also give written reasons for their devision which are based on FACTS and/or THE LAW. More than ONE Justice hears a case at the Supreme Court Level. IF, IN FACT, there existed Legal reasons to have C. Thomas removed, they could have argued those FACTS before the Appeal. THIS is not a case of a fox OR a henhouse, this is a case of spreading lots of fertilizer, instead of focusing on the REASONS/ Monsanto has to APPEAL. Which must be ERRORS of LAW and/or FACT that were made in the REASONS of the first Judge, at the lower Court, that heard this CASE. AN APPELLATE JUDGE Must have substantial evidence to overturn a lower Courts ruling, it isn't simply a matter of opinion.

Written in December 2012

Gurley L Martin (anonymous)

The Solution "IS" Simple; however unlikely. Meddllin and Muddlin of Industry In Government "IS" Exactly Identical to the Federal Government Meddlin and Muddlin In Industry {Any Industry}. Neither Is ANY Business of the Other - EVER - Justice Thomas "IS" ALL American and One of a Kind - As HONEST As Man In the Flesh - CAN BE. Could That Be The "REAL" Problem With the Naysayers?

Written in December 2012

Nancy Diaferio (anonymous)

I thought we were trying to impeach him last year?

Written in January 2013

kemtraylz (anonymous)

WHOS MAD AS HELL AND NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE?!!? I know I am..it will only be enough for these corporations when they own each and every one of us. When they control life itself..oh wait, birth control pills? already too late.

Written in September 2014

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