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Monsanto tries to criminalize saving seeds, drags farmer into court

Published: October 19, 2012
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Source: Business Week

Occupy Wall Street Maui at Monsanto 3The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a dispute between a soybean farmer and Monsanto Co. over the company's efforts to limit farmers' use of its patented, genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds.

The justices said they will hear an appeal from Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, who is trying to fend off Monsanto's lawsuit claiming Bowman made unauthorized use of the seeds.

Monsanto's patented soybean seeds have been genetically engineered to resist its Roundup brand herbicide. When Roundup is sprayed on a field, the product will kill the weeds without harming the crop.

The Obama administration urged the court not to take the case and warned that the outcome could affect patents involving DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies.

Monsanto has a policy that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown, ensuring that farmers have to buy new seeds every year.

Bowman used the patented seeds, but also bought cheaper soybeans from a grain elevator and used those to plant a second crop. Most of the new soybeans also were resistant to weed killers, as they initially came from herbicide-resistant seeds, too. Bowman repeated the practice over eight years. Monsanto sued when it learned what he was doing.

The company has filed lawsuits around the country to enforce its policy against saving the seeds for the future.

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