A lawsuit between an Indiana grain farmer and agricultural giant Monsanto is heading to the Supreme Court. The case could have major ramifications on the future of the US biotech industry and the future of farming.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the nature of patents on genetically engineered crops. Vernon Bowman, the owner and operator of a 300-acre Indiana farm, bought and planted a mix of seeds used for livestock feed. When his crops were harvested, some were discovered to contain the herbicide resistant traits found in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready bio-engineered crops.
Roundup Ready is a closely guarded and patented crop that Monsanto Corporation has been aggressively defending through lawsuits and legal action.
While Monsanto is claiming that Bowman’s harvest was a violation of their patent, Bowman is claiming that his seeds were second-generation, and that Monsanto’s patent only covers first-generation seeds. The outcome of the lawsuit, therefore, could shape the nature of US patent law and could determine whether biotech patents last through multiple generations of seeds and crops.
While small farmers argue that these patents are being used by major agribusinesses to push small farms out of business, some agricultural economists and biotech advocates say that limiting biotech patents could stifle agricultural research and hinder the ability of scientists to develop new strains of drought resistant food.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer