Farmer vs. Monsanto Reaches U.S. Supreme Court
[Editor's note: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared likely to side with Monsanto Co. in its claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company's patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer. The court is expected to rule on the case by the end of June.]
The 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer Hugh Vernon Bowman is facing off with Monsanto in front of the Supreme Court. Five years ago, Monsanto sued Bowman for seed patent infringement and won. Now the high court is hearing the farmer's appeal.
Monsanto's aggressive pursuit of patent infringement lawsuits like Bowman v. Monsanto is well documented in a recent report by the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds. As of January 2013, the corporation had filed 144 suits against 410 farmers in 27 states. Corn and soybean growers across the country will be watching the outcome of Bowman v. Monsanto case very closely.
For years now, farmers have been forced to pay for ever-more expensive seeds that don't perform as advertised and are increasingly the only market-viable (i.e. "elite") seeds they can find. When they look to other seed sources, they are dogged by patent infringement lawsuits.
Taking a stand against Monsanto's harassment of farmers, Bowman continues to assert his right to save seed and rejects the corporate giant's claims that he violated patent law.
Who owns seeds?
"At stake in Mr. Bowman’s case is whether patents on seeds—or other things that can self-replicate—extend beyond the first generation of the products."
Bowman readily admits that he bought conventional seed mixed with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready seed from a grain elevator, planted it and then saved the next generation of seed. He acknowledges that he deliberately saved the seed (as farmers have done for thousands of years), and even admits he knew he was saving seed from RoundUp Ready plants, because those were the only plants in his field that had survived his application of Monsanto’s flagship herbicide, RoundUp.
But Bowman maintains that he has done nothing either wrong or illegal, because:
- grain elevators are allowed to buy both kinds of seeds from farmers and are not required to segregate patented GE seed from conventional seed and
- when he bought the mixed seed (known technically as “commodity seed”) he never signed any kind of “technology agreement” with Monsanto restricting him from saving that seed.
A chink in Monsanto's armor
Back in 2008, the Supreme Court decided there are limits to just how far a patent-holder can go in forcing those further down a supply chain from continuing to license their patents. The limit is known as “patent exhaustion,” and Monsanto is demanding it be released from this limitation.
If the Supreme Court finds in favor of the corporation in Bowman v. Monsanto, then the patents will never expire and Monsanto will retain control of their seed in perpetuity.
If the Court finds in favor of Bowman, Monsanto will still hold most of the cards in the deck, but farmers will have reclaimed a small amount of control.
The Supreme Court's decision on Bowman v. Monsanto case will impact the livelihood of countless farmers.
History of a bully
Over the years, Monsanto has committed tremendous resources to watch-dogging farmers and pursuing litigating: 75 employees and a dedicated $10 million dollar budget as of 2003, according to the Ceneter for Food Safety report released last week.
Report authors also cite that by the end of 2012, Monsanto had received more than $423.5 million from patent infringement lawsuits against farmers and farm businesses, although "depicting the full scope of the industry’s pursuit of farmers is nearly impossible because many cases are settled by confidential out-of-court settlements."
If the Supreme Court decides in favor of Bowman in this suit, it will set an important precedent and potentially curb Monsanto's ability to legally harass farmers across the U.S.
- Thom Yorke of Radiohead Releases Song With Greenpeace to Help ... ›
- Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released ... ›
- Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris' - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
- Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for ... ›
- Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It ... ›
- Thailand Begins the New Year With Plastic Bag Ban - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Marium, Thailand's Beloved Baby Dugong, Is the Latest Victim of ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.