The Supreme Court is very selective in the court cases that they choose to hear and decide. A recent really big one was the question whether certain features in the new health care law passed by the Congress were constitutional.
But, this week the Court heard the case pitting an Indiana farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, versus Monsanto. Agriculture production rights are in the headlines. Mr. Bowman bought Monsanto Roundup Ready soybean seed, like we all do, for spring planting.
But, the thing that he has been doing different the last 7 years is – he has gone to the grain elevator and bought some additional soybeans from the elevator to plant his double crop of soybeans following wheat. Seed beans from Monsanto are expensive. Bulk soybeans at the elevator are relatively cheap.
They both grow and they both have the Roundup Ready trait. Looks like Mr. Bowman has found a way to save some money. However, when a farmer buys Monsanto Roundup soybean seed, he signs an agreement that he will not use the harvested soybeans for seed. Well, Mr. Bowman got around this by buying from the grain elevator (someone else’s beans) knowing that 95% of those soybeans would be Roundup Ready. That means herbicide-resistant. He sprayed the soybean field and killed the weeds.
What’s wrong with all of this is that Monsanto has a patent which is supposed to protect their costly innovation. If farmers are allowed to save their harvested soybeans and use them for seed, companies like Monsanto would not be able to afford to commercialize their inventions. Most major farm organizations support Monsanto on this.
We remember the old days when we were hoeing by hand the weeds in our soybean fields. We remember the days when our corn fields had serious weed and grass problems. Our crop yields suffered. Not anymore. Now, we have genetic engineering – clean fields, better yields.
I am hopeful the Supreme Court will find in favor of Monsanto. We probably won’t know what they decide until June. Their decision will have ramifications beyond the soybean field. Patents of all kinds need to be protected if we expect companies to invest in our future.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
[Disclosure: OFW Law filed an amicus brief on behalf of American soybean, corn, wheat, and sugar beet farmers supporting Monsanto’s position in Bowman v. Monsanto.]