J. D. Heyes
February 20, 2013
Not satisfied with being one of the world’s dominant agri-business giants, Monsanto is taking its “seed rights” to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to gain complete domination of the world’s agricultural production.
On Feb. 19, the nation’s high court heard arguments in a case between Monsanto and Vernon Bowman, a 75-year-old Indiana farmer the agri-giant is suing over claims he has for years used seeds sown from a first crop of Monsanto Roundup Ready soybean seeds to grow subsequent crops.
Monsanto argues that Bowman’s subsequent use of seeds violates the company’s patent, noting that farmers sign an agreement when they buy the seeds to use them only one time. The resulting crop can later be sold off for things like feed or oil but not to create another generation of seeds, CNBC reported.
Monsanto – What’s ours is ours
The agri-giant claims that reusing its seeds is much like stealing a copyrighted song or DVD. But Bowman and scores of other farmers believe that forcing them to buy new seeds every year is nothing more than a monopoly, and that Monsanto’s patent should then “expire” after the first crop is grown.
So far, the federal courts have sided with Monsanto. A lower court agreed with the agri-giant but Bowman appealed, much to the chagrin of corporate America, which was surprised when the nation’s highest court agreed to hear the case.
Monsanto says its multi-billion dollar seed industry is at stake. The company is dominant in the soybean market with its Roundup Ready-brand seeds, which the company has genetically modified so that farmers are able to spray week killer without damaging the soybeans (though a number of weeds are now becoming resistant to the Roundup Ready seeds).
The agri-giant says its GM seeds took years to develop and have helped farmers improve yields and keep costs down.
But how long should a company be compensated for something hard to create but easy to copy? That’s what the high court will decide, and it’s why there are other companies interested in how the high court will rule.
Filing amicus (friend of the court) briefs in support of the agri-giant is a broad array of industries, from the Business Software Association, which represents companies like Microsoft and Intel, to biotech firms and other soybean farmers who are worried that the prices of Monsanto seeds could skyrocket if it loses or that the company may scale back on its research and development.
A Monsanto loss “would effectively eliminate the incentive to discover and develop new genetically-engineers plants,” the American Intellectual Property Law Association wrote in its brief.
But would that be so bad? And what about the fact that more U.S. farmers are moving away from GM seeds because of the development of “superweeds” that are resistant to Roundup?
“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” Tennessee farmer Eddie Anderson told The New York Times in April 2010, in response to why he had to return to using pesticides and plowing in order to deal with resistant weeds. “We’re trying to find out what works.”
‘Darwinian evolution in fast-forward’
The first resistant weeds turned up in Delaware in 2000; the problem has only gotten worse since, with 10 resistant species growing in at least 22 states, infesting every crop from soybeans to cotton and corn.
“What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, told the Times.
Then, of course, there is the fact that Monsanto recently spent millions to kill Prop. 37 in California, a measure that would have required labeling of GMO foods (http://www.naturalnews.com). This is the same agri-giant that once said there is no need to test GM foods because there is nothing wrong with them. (http://www.naturalnews.com)
Bowman may or may not win his case against Monsanto, but clearly the agri-giant is overstaying its welcome with farmers after years of litigating against them.
This article was posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 11:07 am