The U.S. Supreme Court ruling against an Indiana soybean farmer who planted Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean seed without the company’s approval affirms the future of seed biotechnology, according to Monsanto officials.
Hugh Grant, Monsanto chairman and chief executive officer, said the decision “kind of secures the waterfront for a lot of industries that are putting up hundreds of millions of dollars a year and need some kind of certainty over a decade that they’re going to see that money coming back. Otherwise, you’re only as good as the first and last seed that you’ve sold.
“The decision is not just about Monsanto and it’s not just agriculture. It affects a broad range of technologies that fit into that self-replicating area.”
Brett Begemann, Monsanto president and chief commercial officer, said many of the farmers he has talked to about the case have long moved past seed patent issues. “The reason is that they’re getting great technologies. The first people to stand up and support us when we went to the Supreme Court were the farmer customers. They recognized that companies are making huge investments.”
Danny Murphy, Canton, Miss., soybean producer and president of the American Soybean Association, said, “ Intellectual property protection sparked a sea change in investments by public and private seed breeders into improved seeds for soybeans and other crops. The Supreme Court’s decision recognized that if you take away the incentive for these entities to strive for a better seed, they won’t make those investments and farmers eventually won’t have the benefits of improved seeds.”
Garry Niemeyer, a farmer from Illinois and chairman of the Corn Board of the National Corn Growers Association, said, “The court upheld the American values that underpin our economic system and help maintain our national spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America, said, “Without strict enforcement of intellectual property rights, agricultural innovations would be stifled.”
Not all agricultural organizations were on board with the court’s decision. Dave Murphy, executive director and founder of the pro-organic and non-GMO organization, Food Democracy Now!, said the decision “unanimously affirmed the corporate takeover of our food supply, in a huge win for Monsanto, and a major loss for America’s farmers and consumers.”
In a 9-0 ruling, the court rejected Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Bowman’s claim of patent exhaustion, which gives the purchaser of a patented article, or any subsequent owner, the right to use or resell that article.
According to the ruling, Bowman “purchased Roundup Ready soybean seed for his first crop of each growing season from a company associated with Monsanto and followed the terms of the licensing agreement. But to reduce costs for his riskier late-season planting, Bowman purchased soybeans intended for consumption from a grain elevator, planted them and treated them with glyphosate, killing all plants without the Roundup Ready trait.
“He harvested the resulting soybeans that contained that trait and saved some of these harvested seeds to use in his late-season planting the next season. After Monsanto discovered this practice, Monsanto sued Bowman for patent infringement.”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the decision, “In the case at hand, Bowman planted Monsanto's patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article. Patent exhaustion provides no haven for that conduct.”
To read the decision, visit http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-796_c07d.pdf.
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