US Supreme Court May Rule for Monsanto Corp in Seed Patent Case


Monsanto Corporation, a biotechnology company specializing in genetically engineered seeds, has a strict policy that farmers cannot save the seeds borne by grown plants for replanting. This is to protect the genetically engineered product the company created in the seeds from being copied. The Supreme Court is currently hearing Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 11-796, which addresses an alleged violation of this policy by Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman. Bowman purchased some of his weed-killer resistant soybean seeds from Monsanto, and purchased another set from a grain elevator selling soybeans for feed and milling not planting. Bowman figured these seeds would also be weed resistant, since 90% of American soybean farms use Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” seeds, and he used them for planting instead of purchasing more seeds from the company. Bowman repeated this practice for eight years. Monsanto sued, and won in 2007 for an $85,000 judgment in their favor.

Now they bring this issue to the Supreme Court for patent infringement, alleging that by planting seeds intended as feed Bowman copied the seed that Monsanto invented illegally. Bowman’s lawyer, Mark Walters, says that the suit is bullying farmers, and making them assume all risk. Monsanto lawyers claim that without limiting the use of a patented, genetically engineer trait the company could not have commercialized the invention of what is the most popular soybean on the market. Researchers and businesses with patents on DNA molecules, nanotechnology, and other items that self-replicate after creation have been paying careful attention to the case, which may set precedent for their future rulings. The Obama administration has put its support behind Monsanto. While consumer groups and organic food companies have waged a fight against Monsanto to require that any food produced from genetically engineered processed foods must be labeled. Monsanto, and other similar companies spent over $40 million to stamp out a ballot in this matter in California. Yet, the Supreme Court seems likely to rule in favor of Monsanto as so far no justices have shown sympathy for Bowman’s actions.

Source courtesy of The Huffington Post. Image courtesy of The Sentinel-Record.