The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments over a patent dispute between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer.
The case began in 1999 when Vernon Bowman, a 75-year-old soybean farmer, planted unmarked animal feed grains on his land; when they matured, the plants contained Roundup Ready, “the popular herbicide-resistant genetic trait . . . that Monsanto guards closely with patents,” according to Reuters.
The multi-billion dollar biotech/agricultural giant Monsanto says Bowman is infringing on its patents, but Bowman maintains that his seeds are second-generation and not the original ones covered by said patents.
The court will now face the question of whether a patent holder of a genetically modified seed can control its use beyond the first generation of seeds.
Farmers, food safety groups, fellow biotech companies, environmental groups, intellectual property attorneys, and even the U.S. government is watching the case closely; more than 50 amicus curiae briefs have been filed.
Monsanto general counsel Dave Snively sees the case as critical to the issue of “twenty-first century technology such as what we bring in agriculture and other companies bring for say stem cell research or nanotechnology…. and how they’re going to be handled under principles of intellectual property law.”
For Bowman’s part, he says he simply wanted cheaper seeds.
“Farmers have always been allowed to go buy elevator grain and use for seed. You have no idea what kind of seed you’re buying at an elevator. They claim I’m making a new seed by planting it. But that’s far-fetched reasoning.”
Both the trial and appellate court found in favor of Monsanto, with the trial court ordering Bowman to pay the company $84,456.
What do you think of this case?
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