Supreme court vs Monsanto

david52 Zone 6October 16, 2012

"Why do so many people hate Monsanto?

Is it because this multinational corporation pioneered some enormously successful genetically engineered crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton?

Maybe, but I suspect that much of the passion is inspired by Monsanto's hard-line approach to ownership of those crops. Monsanto claims those seeds - and all offspring of those seeds - as its intellectual property. Farmers aren't allowed to save and replant any part of their harvest; if they do, Monsanto takes them to court and demands large damages. Critics call the company bullying and ruthless.

Ruthless or not, in almost all cases, courts have found Monsanto's tactics perfectly legal. Now, in a move that surprised many observers, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take a look.

The court announced earlier this month that it will hear the arguments of a 74-year-old farmer in southwestern Indiana who says that Monsanto's far-reaching claims are unfair and illegal.

The details of this case are intriguing, and slightly different from the earlier "farmer vs. Monsanto" cases. This farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, has been a loyal customer for Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybeans - but only for the primary growing season, in the spring and early summer. After he harvested that crop, Bowman sometimes tried to squeeze in a second harvest.

That second harvest was no sure thing, so he didn't invest a lot of money in it. He planted the cheapest seeds he could find. Sometimes he bought ordinary soybeans from the local grain elevator or another farmer; sometimes he used seeds he'd saved. (Peruse the full story yourself in the farmer's account and Monsanto's response.)

But here's the problem: Monsanto's soybeans account for 94 percent of all the soybeans grown in Indiana. So almost all the soybeans that Bowman could get his hands on contained the patented "Roundup Ready" gene.

Bowman went ahead and planted them anyway, without paying Monsanto's "technology fee." He also took advantage of the gene. It allowed him to spray Roundup (or a generic version of the same weedkiller), which made controlling weeds relatively cheap and easy.

Monsanto found out and took Bowman to court. A federal judge agreed that Bowman had broken the law and ordered him to pay $84,000. An appeals court affirmed that decision.

The arguments and counter-arguments that both sides have submitted to the Supreme Court mostly focus on the reach of Monsanto's patents - specifically, whether Monsanto really can demand a royalty for the planting of any soybean containing its patented genes.

But there's a practical issue, too, and it clearly troubled Richard Young, the federal judge in Indiana who first heard this case. "Monsanto's domination of the soybean seed market," he wrote, means that all the cheap "commodity" soybeans that farmers might use for seed are now encumbered by patents.

Young found Bowman's criticism of the "monopolizing effects" of Monsanto's patents "compelling," but the judge essentially threw up his hands. Finding a remedy, he wrote, would be a matter for policymakers, "but this court does not make policy; rather, it interprets and enforces the law, which, in this case, does not support Bowman."

It will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court decides to wade into this policy question. The case won't be heard, or decided, until sometime next year. end quote

Given that corporations are people, I can see this activist court deciding that they can patent our food.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

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Gee, wonder if Clarence Thomas will recuse himself, since he is a former attorney for Monsanto. Nah.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 10:00PM
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I do think this deserves some attention. I'll be interested to see where it goes.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:10PM
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david52 Zone 6

Of all the cases where Monsanto has gone after farmers, this one doesn't really seem to be much - they sued farmers for genetic drift from their junk into other fields landing in some guy's field who saved seed - and that genetic material showed up in his seed, so they sued him.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:35PM
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This definitely deserves attention. Copyrighting a specific gene, a piece of DNA that can't help but be a part of all successive plant material, whether planned or not, places the words 'air-tight monopoly' on anything coming down from both purposeful or accidental breedings, giving an unfair advantage to Monsanto.

Not only is it unfair to farmers, it's also a recipe for genetic predisposition to various cancers and other illnesses in humans and other animals who would ingest such crops in foodstuffs.

What Monsanto is doing should not be allowed, from both a legal standpoint in monopolization, and from the standpoint of what's potentially harmful to the health of anyone or anything that ingests such products.

Genetically modified anything creeps me out. We don't know enough about the long term effects. No, thank you. Monsanto can keep their Frankenseed.

I do hope the Supreme Court addresses this as it would any other corporate monopoly, by rendering a decision in favor of farmers and against the monopolization of plant materials.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:57AM
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Finally!! Monsanto has been bullying the global food chain and anyone who dares to plant a seed that isn't "theirs" gets sued and destroyed as a warning to anyone who might think of standing up to their strong arm tactics. Heaven forbid someone plants non-GMO, organic, no roundup ready seed, and Monster-anto is hauling them into court , to wear them down and bankrupt them with legal fees. Although the OP is right that this case is not specifically looking at the above question but a related one, at least someone is looking very closely, finally, at this out of control behemoth who literally controls the world's food.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:52AM
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david52 Zone 6

"Ever since commercial introduction of its G.M. seeds, in 1996, Monsanto has launched thousands of investigations and filed lawsuits against hundreds of farmers and seed dealers. In a 2007 report, the Center for Food Safety, in Washington, D.C., documented 112 such lawsuits, in 27 states.

Even more significant, in the Center's opinion, are the numbers of farmers who settle because they don't have the money or the time to fight Monsanto. "The number of cases filed is only the tip of the iceberg," says Bill Freese, the Center's science-policy analyst. Freese says he has been told of many cases in which Monsanto investigators showed up at a farmer's house or confronted him in his fields, claiming he had violated the technology agreement and demanding to see his records. According to Freese, investigators will say, "Monsanto knows that you are saving Roundup Ready seeds, and if you don't sign these information-release forms, Monsanto is going to come after you and take your farm or take you for all you're worth." Investigators will sometimes show a farmer a photo of himself coming out of a store, to let him know he is being followed.

Lawyers who have represented farmers sued by Monsanto say that intimidating actions like these are commonplace. Most give in and pay Monsanto some amount in damages; those who resist face the full force of Monsanto's legal wrath."

At the link is a pretty scary article in a 2008 issue of Vanity Fair that's worth reading again. (IMHO).

Here is a link that might be useful: linky

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:13AM
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