Monsanto Sued By Organic Farmers Who Don't Want To Be Accused Of Patent Infringement

from the patent-madness dept

Monsanto’s incredibly overaggressive use of patents to corner the market on certain crops and to bully farmers has been well-documented over the years. Some of the really crazy stories involve Monsanto accusing farmers of patent infringement, because some of its “patented” seeds were used by neighboring farms, and the newly grown seeds were blown onto the neighboring property by wind, where they grew new plants. Now, a group of organic farmers fearful of being hit with similar threats and/or lawsuits have preemptively sued Monsanto asking for a declaratory judgment that they don’t infringe, while also seeking to invalidate the patents. The full filing, embedded below, includes a description of why the farmers think that Monsanto’s patents are invalid anyway, including the claim that Monsanto’s modified seeds were not actually “useful” (it cites multiple studies debunking claims by Monsanto of the advantages of its seeds) and therefore, not patentable (since, in theory, patents are only allowed on “useful” inventions). Should make for an interesting case, though I would guess it won’t get very far…

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Comments on “Monsanto Sued By Organic Farmers Who Don't Want To Be Accused Of Patent Infringement”

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halley (profile) says:

Just as gedankenexperiment, I’ve always wondered what would happen if a group of “activists” stole a few varieties of patented seed, then scattered them aerially over a few thousand farms during planting season. The courts and media would explode. I think it would take that scale of incident to finally get anyone outside of agribusiness to even notice just what kind of stranglehold companies have over ever facet of our lives.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Today I listened to a keynote at a conference. It was about a research project aimed at “feeding the world” the speaker said he had spent much time putting together his presentation – but then the day before he set off for the conference he received a phone call “congratulations your grant application has been successful” and then another “this conference tyou are attending, what were you planning to say?- you see we need to secure the IP for this project and our lawyers are really unhappy about your talk containing any technical details – such as

Great, find out how to feed the world and then
Lock it up!

Joshua (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Profit

IMO, the conflation of value with profit is part of your confusion. My (limited) experience supplying my own food, plant and animal, has led me to the conclusion that it’s relatively easy (note: I said “relatively”!) to feed yourself and your family, but you have to make a Faustian bargain in order to have one person feed many. Consider by way of example: I just started raising sheep this year, with two ewes, two lambs, and a ram. They subsist almost entirely on the grass and field plants that grow on my property. As close to zero-input as anything I do. Every year, the ewes produce between 2 and 4 lambs, from which I get about 50-70 lbs of freezer meat a piece. All I need to do this is a relatively small fence, or, lacking that, a herd dog, to keep the sheep from wandering off.

From this simple arrangement, I get to eat, but I don’t make any money. And if I tried to sell the sheep for money, it would be hard to make much at all. In order to really profit, I would need hundreds or thousands of sheep, but at that point, the simple, self-sustaining model kind of goes out of the window. I need hundreds of acres of land, I need vehicles and move around the land, I need thousands of feet of fence, and so on. And all of that eats into my profit.

I think this same model plays out in other aspects of food production. You can grow all the potatoes you and your family want to eat with almost nothing in terms of input or labor. But if you want to profit from potatoes, you have to scale up to a degree that your inputs threaten your profits.

So, the reason farmers aren’t profitable, IMO, is not because we don’t respect them (although we don’t), but because food production and profit are inherently at odds with each other. And if you see anybody who IS profiting off of food production, you should ask yourself where they’re getting that profit from. It is incredibly difficult to ethically, humanely, sustainably, healthfully, with good quality, and profitably produce food. If you see someone who is profiting on food production, ask yourself which of the other factors they’re compromising on in order to get that profit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think Monsanto knows fully well the consequences of monoculture die outs. They are a gigantic agribusiness and not knowing about the Irish Potato Famine makes them look like supreme morons.

Hell, the probably engineered things this way so that they would be the only source for the next strain of monoculture. Planned obsolescence, right?

william (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not only that, monoculture is kill the soil we rely on. Check on “humus” which is that dark soil we instinctively know as good soil.

By going monoculture, all those humus turn into those light yellow soil that we typically associate with desert. I remember once driving from Montana to Washington and besides the highway it’s hills and hills of yellow dirt dunes that is blowing up in strong wind and looks like a sandstorm. I was totally shocked. It’s really hard to describe without actually seeing it yourself.

It wasn’t until later I realized those are farms that just had their crops harvested and every bit of the land is laying bare. Monoculture have essentially destroyed all that land which used to be rolling meadows. Absolutely nothing grows in these yellow dirt. No bacteria, earthworms, little bugs, no bird or small animal of any kind. The whole thing just look like silent hills of death. Now they are essentially just dirt that won’t grow anything unless you water it everyday (no moisture is retained) and put in massive amounts of fertilizer.

It really makes me sick in the stomach.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Sue Monsanto

Because Monsanto has precedence in the matter. If your crops are contaminated by their seed, you’re the one who’s liable, no Monsanto. It’s insane and unfair, but that’s how it is. Just look at “The Future of Food”. It’s free to watch on If Hulu is forbidden to you or you boycott them, I’m sure you can find other sources if you care to look.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sue Monsanto

Well, there’s nothing to stop them. And not to get too tinfoil hat about it, but what makes you think they aren’t actually doing it?

I have a theory on what might stop Monsanto from poisoning your field with their GM crops, or from “surveying” your land without your knowledge or say-so…

a high-powered rifle, a scope, and a good dose of get-off-my-land.

Jojoyojimbi (profile) says:


This story is the first time I’ve felt compelled to add my 2 cents to the argument. I’m an avid reader of Techdirt, Consumerist, Slashdot, etc and this is the only time I’ve felt I HAD to register and provide a point of view.

I grew up on a farm. I’m 33 years old and I grew up in Iowa on a farm with farms all around me.

Monsanto was whispered like “he who shall not be named” in farming communities. God forbid you did something to piss off Monsanto, then you couldn’t get feed or seed or the chemicals necessary for daily life on the farms of America.

Monsanto alfalfa and GMO crops are going to literally be the end of the family farm, they’re intent on suing everyone who isn’t using their products into the dirt, god forbid you wanted to save seed! That’s a mortal SIN in Monsanto’s eyes.

The bullshit and patent abuse that goes on in the agricultural businesses is tantamount to family farmer genocide.

I strongly recommend you guys contact some state representative and senators and urge them to stop allowing corporations to strip rights from family farms. It’s too late for any of the members of the House or Senate of any Midwestern state, they’re so deep into the pockets of big agribusiness they likely share the same blood supply.

I pray, with every fiber that this is the straw that breaks Monsanto’s back and begins the downfall of their pitiful existence.

That’s all the rant I have in me for this afternoon, Sorry

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This....

this is the straw that breaks Monsanto’s back

The straw that would break them is:
1) A farmer having “his own genetic plant copyright”
2) Getting that contaminated with Monsanto IP
3) Demanding that Monsanto remove their IP from the seeds and return ’em to the farmer so he could plant ’em.

A proper reaction to the concept of “owning life”.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s gonna keep farmers from trading GM seeds amongst themselves and claiming that it was an accident? Monsanto’s got to protect themselves, and if you take a look at what an economic behemoth they are, they’re clearly bringing some value to the world. One farmer can be substituted for another but monsanto’s tech is more unique.

william (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am not sure if this is a AC trolling. Someone enlighten me.

One farmer can be substituted for another but monstanto’s tech is more unique… are you serious? I think Jojoyojimbi would disagree with you strongly. This is how little respect you show the people who grow your food?

Farming is a tough, tough work. I am sure 90% of us who hangs around here won’t last 1/2 day on a farm. It takes a special kind of people to be farmers. I totally think it should be reversed, that anyone with that kind of money can do what monsanto is doing, but not everyone can be a good farmer.

look, I don’t deny monsanto their accomplishment. Yeah, they did come up with new efficient way of doing agriculture. I am sure some ppl who worked for them truly believes this will increase food production and help solve issue. However, as a cooperation, they are one of the lowest common denominator to ever exists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They can engineer the food to grow faster and stronger and they also can engineer it to not replicate or be dependent on some chemical that needs to be added that is how they protect their IP crap, not by designing something that spreads like wildfire and then go after people accusing everyone of BS infringement.

If nothing else Monsanto should be sued for contaminating the crops of others, not the other way around.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Monsanto’s got to protect themselves, and if you take a look at what an economic behemoth they are, they’re clearly bringing some value to the world.”

It finally hit me – what an epiphany! Now I know where the AC Troll mindset comes from regardless of the topic (music, farming, copyright, pharma, etc.) – it’s the not-so-classic version of the golden rule – “He who has the gold makes the rule”. Every single AC shill/troll (can we just call them shit-rolls?) fully supports any business method that is backed by ginormous stacks of money regardless of how it was obtained or whether it was legal or not! Want to know where the shit-rolls stand on an issue? Count the money and you’ll have your answer!

Needle in a haystack scavenger hunt time: find posts here on TD where the shit-rolls support the side of the debate that DOESN’T already have the bankroll on their side. First post wins a date with Copyright Man!

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Shill/Troll aka shit-roll: “But it’s the law!”

Contrarian: “Well it’s a bad law because: Reason A, Reason B, Reason C plus these three arbitrary studies (citations) and the results.”

Shit-roll: “Freetard! If you don’t like the law change it!”

Contrarian: “That’s exactly why I come to TD! So we can discuss the possible ramifications of the change, the reasons why change needs to be made (or not) and exactly what changes need to be made and why. Why are you here?”

Shit-roll: “Someone has to stick up for the “haves” while the have-nots are deprived of their personal freedom, liberties, and due process as accorded by the law. Have-nots, by their definition, will not be able to afford to defend themselves, thus we have the American public and society as a whole (aka “poor” suckers) in the crosshairs. Only the haves can use the law as a weapon, the have-nots will just have to hope they have some stupid legal defense (which we will change ASAP), if they can afford it.”

Thanks for proving my point AC!

Eileen (profile) says:

Jojo, your words are appreciated. I’m one generation off the farm, but I know how it is to be blackmailed on what you grow on land your great-grandfather owned.

Agribiz is so short-sighted, in their attempt to make themselves the kings and we the peasants, they may kill us all. A sociopathic corporation in full form.

For a more fanciful (but sadly, not far-fetched) view of a future in which dead-end seeds, patents on grains and biological warfare make for a pretty dismal planet, read “The Windup Girl” by Bacigalupi. It’s really good.

And actually the author intersects nicely with this blog, as he has offered up 3 of his short stories in a free pdf here:
(and I believe you can also buy his e-books drm-free).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well if you are faced with financial ruin and poverty because of those people and have nothing to loose what is the bad side of losing your life or going to jail?

I think there was a guy that self imolated himself after his cart of “illegal” vegetables was sized and sparked something big in some parts of the world.

Also you can see some angry people in Winsconsin and in London.

Hiiragi Kagami (profile) says:

Ah, Monsanto.

Thanks to Clarence Thomas, and a couple of other judges who (allegedly) received a nice bonus, we can now safely take part in produce manufactured using e.coli thanks to the patent office.

If Monsanto isn’t killing us, so too is the FDA, who ensures we’ll never see our foods properly labeled with one of the most unforgiving bacteria the human body should have to deal with.

Throw in the fact farmers are now being sued for patent infringement, and well, I take create comfort our elected officials can proudly state they’re stopping this “unadulterated theft” through civil action and appropriate changes to federal and state law.

Now you know why COICA was backed by Senator Bayh. Either this, or because Eli Lilly is located in our home state.

Is it okay for a grown man to cry?

I agree with the last part of the article in this case won’t get very far.

That sentence states so much what’s wrong with this country.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ah, Monsanto.

a classic case of ‘the right amount of the right thing in the right place is good for you. wrong quantities in the wrong place are bad’

there’s a few things your body Needs for digesting food and such that, if they get into other parts of your system, can be quite dangerous. i’m guessing this is one of them.

i also seem to remember there being several different varieties of E.coli? but i may be thinking of something else.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Ah, Monsanto.

There is more than one kind of E coli, perhaps you would like to enlighten us with your vast knowledge as to specifically which ones are save to ingest. While you are at it, please provide demonstrable proof that GMO crops are save for consumption.

I’ll wait patiently whilst not holding my breath.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Monsanto is Public Enemy #1

You don’t need to be a farmer to realize that Monsanto is Public Enemy #1.

Suing farmers who are the recipient of wind blown GMO seed? How the hell did that happen? Farmers should be suing Monsanto for polluting their land.

Suing Organic growers for labeling their food “No GMO” or “No GMH” and claiming defamation because it *implies* that having GMO or GMH is bad? How about allowing the public the right to know what is in their food?

If the Tea Party really wants to get Government out of their pockets and saving consumers and tax payers $billions – then attack the farm subsidies, milk subsidies, sugar import bans, sugar quota rules, and ethanol subsidies and let corn, sugar, and milk sell at the real-world levels. Stop paying growers to not grow!

Monsanto is not helping anyone other than themselves. They’ve polluted our food, they’ve made it more expensive to grow, and they’ve all but killed the independent grower. $4.50/lb for cereal my ass!

I wish these farmers much luck. I am willing to contribute to their defense fund. Where do I send the check?

Fricken Monsanto.


Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Monsanto is Public Enemy #1

“Suing farmers who are the recipient of wind blown GMO seed? How the hell did that happen? Farmers should be suing Monsanto for polluting their land.”

Exactly. If a company asserts that it is entitled for remuneration due to so-called “infringement”, then it logically follow that the company should be liable for any damages caused by their so-called “intellectual property”.

If the organic farmers turn out to benefit, call it an unsolicited “gift”. After all if Monsanto can’t control its so-called “intellectual property” why should the organic farmers be guilty of infringement? It’s NOT the responsibility of the Organic Farmers to do genetic testing to verify that they are not infringing.

Chad Stamps (user link) says:

I'm an actual farmer.

I’m in my third year of operating a small family farm (during the days I’m an IT guy at an Insurance company). I view my product as the connection to the farm, and the ability to ‘meet the meat’ and come out and see where food comes from – that direct connection with our customers is what allows us to sell pastured pigs, lamb, strawberries, honey, etc. to pay the bills. What Monsanto is doing is embraced by most farmers – those of us who question these things are very much the minority. One lawsuit, valid or not, from a place like Monsanto will wipe out most small farms – even if Monstanto was just being legitimately wrong instead of purposefully bringing a suit with that intention. A guy who’s family has farmed the same several hundred acres for a few generations isn’t going to risk that land or his operation by making drastic changes, and the laws are very much set up to penalize someone who wants to farm a different way. I don’t take subsidies for my farming … but I pay for corn in the form of feed bought directly for my animals, as well as taxes that go to ethanol subsidies to prop up that industry and to farm subsidies that get distributed (primarily) among the largest corporate farms – these same subsidies end up supporting the monoculture systems that monsanto is selling. I can’t tell you how nice it is to know that if some overspray from the corn field next door wipes out my orchard I’ll have the comfort of knowing that I indirectly helped pay for it. Before I started my farm 3 years ago I was ignorant about most of what most farming actually is … the more I learn the more outrageous it becomes, and the crazier I know I look to my neighbors.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm an actual farmer.

depends on the distortion, but subsidising agricultural production seems to be destructive by definition. subsidising Setup is one thing. production? not so much. (that said, there’s (probably) a difference between subsidies to encourage production and subsidies to keep the prices down. i believe it has to do with how they are regulated and at what point in the chain they’re placed. the latter is (potentually) useful. the former is not.)

and if your local producers and manufacturers cannot compete with imports, the correct responce would be to add tariffs to the imports, not subsidies to the production… also: only to a point. past a point the entire exercise must be deemed impractical and at that point it’s better to let the local entity fail, have it’s role in the production chain replaced by imports, and it’s resources reapplied to something more benificial. (that said, ideally this would be simply a case of making adjustments to what, exactly, is being produced, rather than having entire industries colapse outright.)

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem is...

An organic farmer reserves some of his crop every year to use for seed next year. When a user of a GMO seed plants in the next field and the wind blows pollen over to the organic farmers plants they will now carry the traits of the GMO plant. The next year he will be planting a percentage of his crop with the genetically altered properties.

Further, as in soy beans, the company takes a spray bottle of “Round Up” (the plant is genetic modification is designed to withstand this pesticide) and goes into the farmers field and spritzes a few plants. If they don’t die the farmer is headed to court.

Forget the trespassing, contaminating the organic crop with pesticides and the damage to the crop which in actually from heirloom seeds, the farmer is assumed guilty until proved innocent. (With dead plants)

So a farmer who has no desire to use these seeds, in fact works to avoid them is found to be infringing and having to pay damages in court settlements.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Escaped Seeds are Monsanto's Liability

Lets reverse the “infringement” argument. If you create something, like patented seeds, and they escape the liability belongs to Monsanto!

Think of it this way, if John Doe has a viscous attack dog that jumps the fence and mauls the proverbial poster board child, he would be liable for the injuries that the child suffered. Following through with this logic, if Monsanto’s seeds damage someones crop, Monsanto should be held liable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Escaped Seeds are Monsanto's Liability

Oh so seeing as your talking about reversing the infringement argument I guess you’re saying the law should be going after the movie companies and music publishers for letting their digital data escape into the wild.

That we should in fact be fining the publishers for every infringing file we find on the internet.


Actually I quite like that idea.

Cow Turd says:

Re: Re: Escaped Seeds are Monsanto's Liability

Only problem dude, nature’s accomplice ….
its called the WIND!

If Hollywood’s data was blown by the wind, that would be interesting.

But, its not just wind now is it?
There is a little mischievous bunch much worse than pirates,
they’re called birds. And these guys just love to lay Shit-Rolls all over the show.

Now we’re justing talking about two natural partners in moving seed in the REAL WORLD. Should we subpoena these too for the courts convenience?

Cue Bob Dylan: “The answer my friend is blowin in the wind”
Who’s liability Bob?

Dam Freeloaders!
Now git off my crops 😉

hmm (profile) says:


Monsanto plan:1

step 1. introduce a ‘modified’ seed.
step 2. force a monoculture onto farmers
step 3. wait until non-monoculture seeds are no longer used
step 4. wait until monoculture seeds are wiped out by a single plague
step 5. introduce new “massively more-expensive” seeds kept in reserve that HAVE to be bought (cash + political changes that suit monsanto) otherwise people will starve…..
step 6. cackle madly once monsanto are basically overlords of every single vegetable on earth

Trails (profile) says:

Book to Read...

The Windup Girl, Is a great book that touches on much of this. While fiction, and set in a future where some of this stuff has run amok, it doesn’t seem so farfetched after reading some of what monsanto is up to.

Colour me shocked, how do I avoid buying their product.

RSmith (profile) says:


Monsanto is a corporation that is completely out of control. It has paid to create laws that protect it. Monsanto must be made to pay massive fines and penalties if their GMO’s interfere with a farmers crop. A farmer should be able to declare his/her farm a GMO free zone and be legally protected from outside interference. The laws governing this need to be completely rewritten so the tables can be turned on this disaster. If the GMO’s kill regular humans then Monsanto will simply create Genetically Modified Humans that can tolerate their poisonous produce.

Beta (profile) says:


1) Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone were to breed/engineer a pest, a new strain of rust or something, optimized to destroy Monsanto crops, and market is as a tool which farmers can use to purge their fields of unwanted Monsanto plants, thereby preventing infringement?

Such an “invention” could then be locked up tight with bio-patents. Farmers who use Monsanto strains would then be faced with the prospect of having their crops destroyed by this new pest, and being sued for it.

Not that I would actually be in favor of such a thing. It would punish Monsanto only indirectly, ruin farmers who are guilty only of collaboration, and perhaps cause famine…

2) What if some Indian tribes copyright the plants they domesticated, then sue Monsanto for creating derivative works?… Nah, the tribes don’t have enough money to win a big legal case against Monsanto, and even if they could it would probably lead to Kokopeli becoming a protected corporate trademark, which just makes my head hurt.

3) How about somebody creates and patents another strain of one of these plants, and sells the seed under a contract requiring that the second-generation adult plants be destroyed… with Roundup. Naturally this won’t work if the first generation plants are pollinated by neighboring Monsanto plants. Whether or not this actually happens, it makes the Monsanto strain a tool for circumventing DRM.

4) Maybe if we concoct a completely implausible agro-terrorism scenario, and somehow get the idea tied in with health care reform via a logic-defying catchphrase, and maybe get some teen idols involved…

CowaBunka says:

Re: Monsanto Must Win


I agree with the farmers, but Monsanto will surely win..why??

Monsanto’s yearly revenue: Billions

Farmer’s yearly revenue: not even 500,000

Monsanto has the resources to last for centuries in court, Farmers do not


If you inform the sleeping sheep that are the people of this world, of the impending disaster that is to befall humanity that is this catastrophe in the making via this disease called Monsanto. Of how and why we should avoid allowing this scourge to invade our food chain. When they have their eyes opened and they awake, they will remove their crops from the fields like weeds and throw them to a furnace along with their board of directors.

Take 1,000 000 farmers with an income of $500 000
and you get > $500 000 000 000

Nice global come back to a global pest.

For you people who have short memories. I recall when Monsanto was seeking permission to test their genetic mutants on human beings. The international authorities had grave reservations. And the cry from Monsanto was ” Oh but we want to feed the poor starving Africans” [Cue the song, Feed the World] …. Oh, these poor people are dying its worth the risk, if it works out, imagine the good it will do.

I recall how they said they had no intentions of introducing these products into the US market. But no sooner than they realized they would be able to remove ALL OBSTACLES to the business plan did the music change.

Then :
But think of the children ! …….

WOW think of the PROFITS BABE!

Now think of the dilemma your in,
when studies say the body and your genes will remember what you consumed in your life time and through your children’s life times. That food switches on & off certain expressions.

However, food via nature has had thousands and millions of years to perfect its creation. But we should be rest assured of Monsanto’s chemical slag cooked up in its kitchen over a decade because some twat that could never see past its nose and its bank account said so.

YEP, I’m convinced aren’t you?

Ubertroll says:

Monsanto is Public Enemy #1

Actually, they have undercover agents who deliberately seed the organic farms with their frankenstein corn and rapeseed and canola -you name it- under the cover of darkness, many many farmers reported strangers hanging around on their land, next time they were trespassing and taking samples from private lands, where they should’t be in the first place. Next step was the lawsuit built on the evidence that they planted there. Evil bastards, that’s what they are.
Keywords to look up in google: “Codex Alimentarius” “Terminator Seeds” “NWO” “Illuminati”
Yes, the conspiracy nuts finally figured out that this is a massive illumi-nazi company to capitalize every aspects of human life.
Don’t get me wrong, the conspiracy nuts have moles inside every company (wherever they can put moles), but it’s too easy for an average person to say it’s bullshit, because the mass media always discredit the geeks who think something evil is lurking in the dark.
Sure, there is something evil lurking under the gardens.
Some of their great products that made history:
-Cyklon-B (yeah made for the guy with the funny moustache)
-Agent Orange
And their marketing? All their poison containers look like “rainbows and cotton candy will pop out if you uncap them”
A black bottle, with big yellow label and black death head and all capital letters shouting “this is f***ing poison and it kills every living thing around, including you” wouldn’t sell much I guess…

Mad In Texas (profile) says:

Sue Monsanto

I know, right? That’s the bigger crime – especially for the farmers who are growing their crops to sell organic seed to consumers! How can they know for sure that the GMO seed did not contaminate their own crop? If my tree loses a branch onto the neighbor’s house, I am liable, even if the wind carried the branch across the yard, and the branch was not hanging over the fence beating the house already. Where is poisonous pollen floating on the wind and insects any different? Round-up Ready root crops. Sheez! What does that tell me? That tells me the farmer using them is watering the crop with Round-up, and that’s what the crop is sucking up for me and my children to eat. This whole thing just blows my mind that this corporation would be allowed to put out poisonous food like this,and to have such a nature of sabotage against those farmers who endeavor to supply those of us who prefer to remain chemical and toxin free!

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