As many people closely following the method of patenting of the GM seeds already know, when farmers purchase “RoundUp” ready seeds for their crops, they sign a carefully worded document that enters them into a contract with Monsanto. (Or with whatever Food Corporation holds the patents to the seeds.) Among the activities specified in the contract is that the farmer may NOT collect the seeds for his use for the next time, or any future time, that he plants a crop. (For you astute legal minds, my question is at the very end of this diary of mine.)
So this past week, the Supreme Court Justices are undertaking the hearing of the case known as Bowman Vs. Monsanto.
The question in the case, Bowman v. Monsanto Company, No. 11-796, revolves around the issue of whether or not patent rights to seeds and other things that can replicate themselves extend beyond the first generation. The justices appeared alert to the consequences of their eventual ruling not only for Monsanto’s very lucrative soybean patents but also for modern agriculture generally and for areas as varied as vaccines, cell lines and software.
Now to add to the spice of the considerations, farmer Bowman had at one point bought seed for crops from Monsanto. At that time, he entered into the usual agreement regarding his not collecting these seeds at the end of the harvest. He planted those seeds, and behaved according to that contract, regarding this initial purchase of seeds.
However, when it came to planting a winter crop, Bowman went and bought bags of “seed” sold as “animal feed.” He did this, theorizing, I suppose, that these seeds would be good enough for him to use for his winter crops. (A crop that doesn’t always survive to the full amount of usual amounts of bushels per acre, and therefore not a crop that he cared to spend the money for the more expensive, Monsanto-patented RoundUp seed.) He possibly also believed that since this purchase did not involve him signing any additional contracts with Monsanto, he was free to do whatever he wanted with this bag of seeds.
One lawyer, Mark P. Walters, stated during the proceedings: companies could rely on contracts rather than patent law to protect their inventions, an answer that did not seem to satisfy several of the justices.
While considering the numerous situations that this new phase of farming, and technical advancement with patents over life processes involves, Supreme Court Justice Kagen stated: “It seems to me that that answer is peculiarly insufficient in this kind of a case,” Justice Elena Kagan said, “because all that has to happen is that one seed escapes the web of these contracts, and that seed, because it can self-replicate in the way that it can, essentially makes all the contracts worthless.”
Apparently Kagen is becoming aware of the fact that here in the USA, whose government has been captured by corporate interests, strange things are happening to the nation’s farmers.
As our government is much more liberal in terms of allowing these Agro Giants the ability to sell this stuff, as opposed to China, France and now even Peru! As the government allows these Frankenfood Giants to sell the patented seeds, not only do we not really know whether this stuff is safe to eat, as none of it has been researched for the decades of study our government once required of new entries into the food chain, but also, the small family farmers are getting put out of business. This occurs because the Agro-Giants all have food police agents who go out and sometimes for a price, get neighbors to inform on neighbors. Since a clump of crops grown in a field can come about through having a bird bring in seed, or winds blow it in, farmers often find themselves sued by companies like Monsanto even when they have NOT purchased the Monsanto “RoundUp” ready seeds. And of course, RoundUp itself often can drift for at least 1,500 feet, if not much further. So Kagen apparently is willing to acknowledge that some of the farmers losing their farms are not guilty of anything other than participating in the usual wildness of nature. (Small farmers who are sued by Big Agro concerns almost always lose their land, because if they do get a lawyer to help them, they often end up owing the lawyer as much as their farm is worth! )
In his earlier court cases against Monsanto, Mr. Bowman argued that a doctrine called patent exhaustion allowed him to do what he liked with products he had obtained legally. But lower courts ruled that Mr. Bowman’s conduct amounted to patent infringement.
A federal judge in Indiana ordered Mr. Bowman to pay Monsanto more than $84,000. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent cases, upheld that decision, saying that by planting the seeds Mr. Bowman had infringed Monsanto’s patents.
At Tuesday’s argument, Mr. Bowman’s lawyer received a markedly more hostile reception than Mr. Waxman, the attorney for Monsanto. Walters was peppered with skeptical questions from almost every justice.
So here is my question: If this crap GM “food” that Monsanto has “offered” the world is now so ubiquitous that you can’t buy a bag of food for your animals without encountering it, shouldn’t that be grounds for the beginning of an Anti Trust Suit? A Dairy collective in Wisconsin, which for decades has done a most excellent job of keeping small time dairy farmers in business, was recently shuttered and ended, due to an Anti Trust lawsuit. How is it that this nation’s government is allowing Monsanto what amounts to a complete monopoly on the Soybean seeds and other crop seeds now available for planting? When can we expect an Anti Trust suit against this food, pesticide, and Agro-Technical giant?
Or does the label “Anti Trust” now only apply to small and medium sized companies – not Too Big To Fail Types like Monsanto?
Part of my reading on this case was done at the following link. But there are now many such links proliferating on the web – be sure and google, Bowman Vs Monsanto for the various descriptions from many points of view, monetary views of the case, organic food organizations vs Gm, and much more.