Deal with the Devil: Monsanto Headed to Supreme Court in Case Against Its Own Growers

Deal with the Devil: Monsanto Headed to Supreme Court in Case Against Its Own Growers
Posted on
Updated on
dollar bill backgroundThe case of Vernon Bowman v Monsanto is headed to the Supreme Court, a case in which Monsanto is fighting against one of its own GMO farmers.  Mr. Bowman is a farmer from Indiana who grows soybeans, and has challenged the biotech giant over its official agreement.  Bowman started buying Monsanto’s GMO soybeans in 1999 and signed the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement (MTSA), which is detailed below.  Bowman adhered to the MTSA for these seed purchases and did not save the seeds for replanting in subsequent years, per the contract.

However, in 2007 Bowman bought some seeds from a grain elevator that contained Monsanto’s GMO soy seeds in the mixture that he used for a late-season second planting.  Bowman did save and replant the Monsanto GMO seeds from this second generation batch.

Monsanto does authorize growers to sell their second-generation seed to grain elevators as a commodity and does not require restrictions on grain elevators’ subsequent sales of that seed.

From Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement:


•  To plant and/or clean Seed for Seed production, if and only if, Grower has entered into a valid, written Seed production agreement with a Seed company that is licensed by Monsanto to produce Seed. Grower must either physically deliver to that licensed Seed company or must sell for non-seed purposes or use for non-seed purposes all of the Seed produced pursuant to a Seed production agreement.  Grower may not plant and may not transfer to others for planting any Seed that the Grower has produced containing patented Monsanto Technologies for crop breeding, research, or generation of herbicide registration data.
Despite Monsanto allowing seed to be sold to grain elevators and restriction-free sales of those seeds by the grain elevators, a lower court ruled that growers who buy second generation seeds and plant them infringe on Monsanto’s patent when new seeds self-replicate, creating new genetic material, seeds and plants.

Bowman contends that Monsanto’s patent is exhausted after seeds have been sold to a grain elevator and that it is foreseeable and natural that seeds would be used for their intended purpose of planting.

If Bowman wins, Monsanto will suffer an economic blow because farmers will be able to buy cheaper second generation GMO seeds that they can save and re-plant. If Monsanto wins, ‘patent exhaustion’ legal definitions and rulings will be turned on their head and will have to be modified for self-replicating products.

Either way it works out, the proliferation of GMO crops will likely increase — a major problem from the citizens of the world. That is why it is essential that we continue to push for Prop 37, the GMO labeling bill centered in California. Meanwhile, this Supreme Court case is an open display in how Monsanto will even turn on its own growers for profits.

Additional sources: