Everyone loves an underdog, which is why Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman received such good press.

NPR called his recent trip to the Supreme Court “a classic case of the little guy taking on the big one,” because he’s the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto, the seed company. USA Today compared the legal battle to “David vs. Goliath.”

In this telling, however, we should view the consequences should Mr. Bowman win. His effort to circumvent intellectual property rights threatens the future of modern agriculture and food production in the United States and around the world.

He may look like a little guy, but he’s fighting against the interests of little guys everywhere. Not unlike like Mr. Bowman I grow soybeans on a family farm in the American heartland. My fifth generation farming legacy has taught me the asset of legitimate investment of time and money. Building from a strong foundation pays its own rewards and my ability to purchase high yielding pest resistant seed has more benefits than just my farm’s profits. Clean air, water and ample food to feed the world’s growing population are also at the heart of this conversation.

(See related: Bowman v. Monsanto could open GM Pandora’s box)

When high technology seed came to the market place in the late 1990’s I quickly recognized the value it brought to my farm. Because of this I’m currently able to select from a broad selection of cutting edge seeds capable of adapting to my farm’s variable planting/growing challenges. Today, I’m growing more food on less land than ever before. The seed trait called into question by Mr. Bowman is the same which has allowed me to switch to no-till farming methods while using fewer chemical sprays. On a broad note the biotech seed in question has allowed Iowa to employ no-till across nearly 60% of its soybean acres. This has a direct reduction on soil erosion, leading to clean waters–an essential advantage in our part of Iowa, where rolling hills define the terrain.

 

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The genetically modified crops that we produce are safe, healthy, and beneficial tools of scientific innovation. Their high yields allow me and other American farmers to compete in world markets. A new report from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications says that 17.3 million global farmers (over 15 million are small, resource-poor farmers from developing countries) planted more than 420 million acres with GM crops last year, a new record.

Biotech seeds exist because seed companies pour billions of dollars into research and development. They strive to come up with higher yielding products that help farmers fight pests and weeds. Their efforts empower farmers as we grow more food and contribute to environmental sustainability.