argylesock says… There’s legal wrangling over genetically modified (GM) crops. One big issue is: Who Controls the Seeds? Here’s the outcome of a test case about that very question.
Vernon Bowman is a farmer who saved seed and grew beans from it. Because he did this terrible thing to poor little Monsanto (the patent owner) he’s been convicted and ordered to pay Monsanto $84,000.
My fellow blogger Janina at Food (Policy) for Thought sums up this story: ‘But I personally feel that the Court is letting itself off the hook fairly easily, and setting a dangerous precedent. Supreme Court rulings make case law, and are frequently cited to back up legal arguments. If this opinion, the fact that growing plants from seeds can be unlawful if that seed had, at some point in the past, had a patent attached to it, becomes prevalent, any farmer could be dragged in front of the court and be accused of wittingly or unwittingly replicating patented material. The only way to avoid legal prosecution then would be to prove beyond a doubt that you weren’t aware of the patent or that that crop that grew on your field (which might, by design, be much more resilient than your own crops and replace them) was growing “outside [your] control” – and how do you prove that? This is the main reason I am very critical of GMOs – not foremost the fact that they have been genetically modified, but the fact that they give a few select corporations so much power over our food system.’
The decision that has been eagerly awaited by a great number of people might disappoint just as many. I covered the Bowman vs. Monsanto case earlier when the oral hearings were made, and commented that it didn’t seem to look too good for Mr. Bowman’s case. This impression has turned out to be true: in a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court this morning decided to uphold the lower court’s ruling and ruled against Vernon Bowman, declaring that he violated Monsanto’s intellectual property rights by regrowing second-generation seeds.
For a more in-depth analysis of the background, feel free to revisit my original post, but here is the short version: Vernon Bowman is a farmer from Indiana who bought soybean seeds from a grain elevator (which is not the usual way to get seeds, since they will be a mix of varieties and thus of heterogeneous quality), planted them, and…
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