The swirling debate surrounding the use of genetically modified crops is heading for the US Supreme Court.
The corporation maintains rigid claims on their product though all generations of production. Farmers cannot plant seeds harvested from crops grown from the company’s beans. That prohibition also extends to seeds sold by a third party. In their eyes, the stamp of the genetic footprint is perpetual and all usage must be approved by, and compensation paid to, Monsanto. Farmers are effectively barred from reusing or reselling seeds, a practice as old as agriculture itself.
In order to grow a second crop in a single year, Bowman purchased surplus commodity seeds from the local grain elevator. Roundup Ready beans account for about 90% of all soybeans grown in the US, the remaining percentage is comprised of other non-resistant beans. The stock at the elevator came from a commingled harvest so as could be expected, when sown, the resulting plants were also resistant to Roundup in about the same proportion as the ratio of regular beans to Monsanto beans. Bowman got the advantage of benefitting from the company’s product without paying them directly.
Monsanto naturally frowned on this creative interpretation of the rules and instructed him to stop. Lawsuits and judgments ensued and now the highest court in the land will determine the scope of Monsanto’s intellectual property claims in a decision that could upend the industry and have far-reaching implications for research and development and for the rights of farmers. Do corporations own our crops? Should science be rewarded in perpetuity for innovations that involve the food supply? Loaded questions that will unlikely be definitively answered, no matter the outcome of the case.
Mr. Bowman engaged in a fairly common habit that ignites the tendentious debate on both sides of the issue. While advances in genetic modifications have resulted in bountiful crops for this hungry planet, many feel that this has come at the price of traditional farming practices.