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Monday, February 18, 2013

Courts - Tomorrow: "Indiana Farmer's Fight With Monsanto Reaches The Supreme Court"

Updating a number of earlier ILB entries, oral argument in the case in which "Vernon Hugh Bowman, an Indiana farmer, is challenging Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, over genetically modified crops," is tomorrow. A few quotes from Andrew Pollack's long, Feb. 15th NY Times story:

[T]he 75-year-old farmer from southwestern Indiana will face off Tuesday against the world’s largest seed company, Monsanto, in a Supreme Court case that could have a huge impact on the future of genetically modified crops, and also affect other fields from medical research to software.

At stake in Mr. Bowman’s case is whether patents on seeds — or other things that can self-replicate — extend beyond the first generation of the products.

It is one of two cases before the Supreme Court related to the patenting of living organisms, a practice that has helped give rise to the biotechnology industry but which critics have long considered immoral. The other case, involving a breast cancer risk test from Myriad Genetics, will determine whether human genes can be patented. It is scheduled to be heard April 15.

Monsanto says that a victory for Mr. Bowman would allow farmers to essentially save seeds from one year’s crop to plant the next year, eviscerating patent protection. In Mr. Bowman’s part of Indiana, it says, a single acre of soybeans can produce enough seeds to plant 26 acres the next year.

Here is NPR's Morning Edition story this morning by Dan Charles. Some quotes, the whole story is quite interesting:
But here's where Bowman got into trouble: He also likes to plant a second crop of soybeans, later in the year, in fields where he just harvested wheat.

Those late-season soybeans are risky. The yield is smaller. Bowman decided that for this crop, he didn't want to pay top dollar for Monsanto's seed. "What I wanted was a cheap source of seed," he says.

Starting in 1999, he bought some ordinary soybeans from a small grain elevator where local farmers drop off their harvest. "They made sure they didn't sell it as seed. Their ticket said, 'Outbound grain," says Bowman.

He knew that these beans probably had Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene in them, because that's mainly what farmers plant these days. But Bowman didn't think Monsanto controlled these soybeans anymore, and in any case, he was getting a motley collection of different varieties, hardly a threat to Monsanto's seed business. "I couldn't imagine that they'd give a rat's behind," he snorts.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 18, 2013 10:05 AM
Posted to Courts in general