Supreme Court to begin on Bowman vs. Monsanto

by Laura Lloyd
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court will begin oral arguments today in the case of Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company, et al.

Mr. Bowman, a 75-year-old soybean farmer from Indiana, bought and used soybeans that happened to contain genes pioneered by Monsanto that conferred protection against the widely used Roundup herbicide. Monsanto has rules in place that require farmers to buy fresh “Roundup Ready” seeds each year from the company to ensure a financial return on the company’s investment in the protective genes.

The lawsuit has important ramifications for manufacturers of bioengineered seeds and for the farmers who use them. It also is viewed as having broader patent implications for manufacturers well outside the realm of agriculture, such as the software and nanotechnology industries.

At stake is whether patent protection for the creator of a bioengineered seed — in this case Monsanto — extends beyond the first generation of the seed’s use. The question is, was Mr. Bowman within his legal rights when he purchased and planted seeds that happened to contain “Roundup ready” genes from a vendor other than Monsanto?

Monsanto has licensing agreements that require farmers to buy bioengineered seed with protection against the herbicide Roundup each year they plant. Farmers are forbidden to buy seeds that may have the protective gene but were cultivated and then sold outside Monsanto’s legally protected system. Lower federal courts have ruled in favor of Monsanto.

Monsanto argues that its patent protection extends beyond the first-generation seeds while Mr. Bowman has contended that the patent is essentially exhausted when the plants mature from the initial first-generation seeds and produce a new generation of seeds. Farmers, in Mr. Bowman’s view, should be free to purchase their soybean seeds from any source they wish. (As it happens, the “Roundup ready” gene is likely to be found in most soybean seeds available because of its wide use.)

Monsanto has argued that, if Mr. Bowman wins the case, farmers will become de facto competitors with Monsanto, able to plant their soybean fields with bioengineered seeds obtained anywhere and denying the company a reasonable return on the hundreds of millions of dollars it took  Monsanto to develop “Roundup ready” soybeans.
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READER COMMENTS (12)

By charles zielinski 12/31/2013 5:16:52 PM
Its funny how the public does not approve of Monsanto's tactics of controlling the world's seed supply. We do not want roundup ready corn! We want healthy organic corn. Funny how the supreme court always seems to side with their law firms and our local farmers trying to improve the health of our society are presented with obstacles. Monsanto should not be allowed to control the seed supply and the government should put a stop to this practice.

By Valerie 4/26/2013 12:39:51 PM
Monsanto should NOT have the right to make farmers buy new seeds each year. Just because they developed a seed resistant to Round Up doesn't mean they HAD to spend the millions of dollars to develop it. So what? Once the seed is purchased it becomes the property of the new owner to do with as he/she chooses - grow it, resell it, save it, etc. Get with the program Monsanto! Just because you're a HUGE corporation used to getting your way because you have all the lawyers and politicians in your pocket doesn't mean you're not breaking the law. What Monsanto is forcing is what every corporation wishes they could do - buy a Ford F150, pay Ford for the truck, that doesn't mean in two years when I sell the truck Ford doesn't sue me for taking money out of their pockets! But, after all, didn't they develop the truck, manufacture it, advertise it, etc. Monsanto is just greedy! Sorry you spent millions of dollars on bioengineered seeds - but you're done with it now.

By Wilford John Presler IV 2/25/2013 1:13:12 AM
My remedy is to totally ban Monsanto and their Genetically Modified Organisms from further contaminating our food supply chain with their totalitarian control of "patented" seed stock. (watch the documentary Food Inc)

By S. Coleman 2/21/2013 1:11:05 PM
Oh, and by the way, the other far reaching ramifications of this case are specifically why we should NEVER have allowed patents of living organisms in the first place. Slippery slope people...it needs to end now.

By S. Coleman 2/21/2013 1:08:59 PM
D. Sluter, you a flat out wrong! We have more starving people today than ever before and it is because of food giants like Monsanto, Con Agra, Syngenta, etc... AND, our soils have been depleted, our natural resources squandered, and our water polluted. At some point, there will be no fertile ground to plant. Then, the world will starve! You are mistaken and need to wake up.

By Mark 2/20/2013 7:25:28 AM
I am suprised the designed traits would be carried down to subsequent generations. To get to desired herbicide resistance, farmers might need fresh seeds each year.

By Jane Singleton 2/19/2013 4:06:13 PM
We are not yet living in a communistic state, we should be able to plant what we want, and buy seeds from who we want Down with Monsantos

By jqp 2/19/2013 3:56:38 PM
Correction on my previous remark...the farmer bought the soybeans...and creatively took the seed and did not break any laws...and Monsanto should not win this.

By Jqp 2/19/2013 3:50:16 PM
This is a serious issue. Genetic modification of seeds spreads...then Monsanto fines everyone. We are talking FOOD here....and quite frankly, soy and corn have found their way into products which are now found to be unhealthy for human consumption. Meanwhile, local farms are being pushed out...No, this is not about protecting creative invention...because if it is...I say protect the farmer who was creative in using the seed. He bought the seed.

By D. Suter 2/19/2013 2:47:58 PM
I am glad the article pointed out the far reaching implications of this case. Coleman: "We are no longer allowed to buy, produce, and harvest many forms of one seed type; does anyone remember the potato famin?" You are allowed to breed your own cultivars, and free seed is available from the USDA. And thanks to fine companies like Monsanto, famines are less infrequent and severe then they were 20-30 years ago. Thank you mansanto for making the world a better place.

By Global Citizen 2/19/2013 2:04:02 PM
Yes, yes and yes! There need to be put a STOP on companies like Monsanto. They don't care about their farmers, they don't care about people eating their superficial produce. All they care is $$$ and to raise profit. Governments around the world have already lost their power. We are being dictated by global enterprises. From oil to pharma to food industry. These companies are working hand in hand and all they want is our best - our money! The human species on this planet seem to be the most stupid of all animals. People envy to be a piece of the consumer heard. Break out, its never to late, set examples! Lets see on what side our supreme court is?

By Samantha Coleman 2/19/2013 1:04:43 PM
What a travesty to the world food production business. We are no longer allowed to buy, produce, and harvest many forms of one seed type; does anyone remember the potato famin? What Monsanto is doing is raping the food industry for $. It's a shame, and when our whole planet contains nothing but engineered food, and more people continue to die from cancer, it will be too late to learn from our mistakes. Shame on you Monsanto and those like you...