Thursday, December 5, 2013
Mark Sherman / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
A farmer holds Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soy Bean seeds in this photo. The herbicide-resistant soybean seeds first hit the market in 1996. To protect its investment, Monsanto has a policy that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year.
He didn't try to keep it a secret from Monsanto and in October 2007, the company sued him for violating its patent. Bowman's is one of 146 lawsuits Monsanto has filed since 1996 claiming unauthorized use of its Roundup Ready seeds, Snively said.
A federal court in Indiana sided with Monsanto and awarded the company $84,456 for Bowman's unlicensed use of Monsanto's technology. The federal appeals court in Washington that handles all appeals in patent cases, upheld the award. The appeals court said that farmers may never replant Roundup Ready seeds without running afoul of Monsanto's patents.
The Supreme Court will grapple with the limit of Monsanto's patent rights, whether they stop with the sale of the first crop of beans, or extend to each new crop soybean farmers grow that has the gene modification that allows it to withstand the application of weed-killer.
The company sees Bowman's actions as a threat both to its Roundup Ready line of seeds and to other innovations that could be easily and cheaply reproduced if they were not protected.
"This case really is about 21st century technologies," Snively said.
Bowman and his allies say Monsanto's legal claims amount to an effort to bully farmers.
The Center for Food Safety's Freese points out that Monsanto's biggest moneymaker is corn seed, which cannot be replanted. "So seed-saving would have no impact on the majority of Monsanto's seed revenue," he said.
The case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 11-796.