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Elderly Farmer Ordered to Pay Monsanto $84,000 for Planting Unlabeled Monsanto Soybeans

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Pro tip: If you’re an elderly small-time soybean farmer, make sure you’re really, really careful not to piss off huge GMO-based companies like Monsanto. That’s a lesson that 76-year-old Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman probably wishes he’d learned before a lawsuit from Monsanto went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Bowman was ordered to pay Monsanto $84,000 in damages for planting patented soybeans.

The whole thing started with a single batch of Monsanto’s patented pesticide-resistant soybeans. Monsanto sells the soybeans to farmers with the agreement that second-generation seeds will be destroyed and not used for re-planting purposes, forcing farmers to buy a new batch of seed every year in exchange for hardier crops. Bowman raised a crop of Monsanto soybeans early in the growing season, but decided that he didn’t want to shell out for expensive seed to plant a risky second crop later in the season. Instead, Bowman purchased a load of unlabeled seed from a warehouse, hoping that some of the seeds would happen to contain the Monsanto gene. The crop was a success, so Bowman harvested the seeds and used them to plant subsequent crops. Monsanto viewed this as a violation of patent law and sued the pants off Bowman.

Now, after five years of costly soybean-based litigation, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Monsanto and Bowman owes Monsanto $84,000 in damages. That might not be a lot of money for Monsanto — especially since they control over 90% of the genetically modified seed market — but it’s a major blow to Bowman.

H/T NPR + PicThnx NYT

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5 replies on “Elderly Farmer Ordered to Pay Monsanto $84,000 for Planting Unlabeled Monsanto Soybeans”

Ok, now that you have me angry and all rilled up—any suggestions about what we can do to show support for this farmer as a consumer? Any other links to support this story? I know what Monsanto is and I know a Monsanto owns the genetically modified seed market….now how do we help the farmer besides “sharing” your story.

A small bit of bias in favor of Monsanto in your article. He went to a grain co-op to buy a batch of mixed soys to plant for his second planting of the year. One that isn’t as successful as his first planting so he didn’t want to shell out the top dollar that Monsanto demands for their Roundup-ready soys. He knew that not all of the soys would be the GMO that Monsanto makes, but their prevalence in what farmers plant made it an inevitablilty. He sold off the second harvest but Monsanto still came after him for using them. The farmer, who lives in southwestern Indiana had to drive all the way to Ohio for unpatented seeds that he now uses for his second plantings.

Now think about it this way. I buy a car from GM. I use it for a while and later sell it to you. GM then comes after you for using their product demanding that you pay them for the use of it. That’s how I see this case.

The bias of this piece is obvious. It does not matter how old or young the farmer is, for example. You want us to feel sympathy for a rulebreaker because he is “elderly”, but his age means nothing to the law, nor should it. You also seem to imply that because a company is “huge” that they are somehow evil. That in itself is an interesting bit of bias.
The question of whether the guy who planted Monsanto’s seeds knew he was doing so is left unanswered, but the implication is that he did, since you say he “hoped” there would be some of Monsanto’s product in what he purchased. If he knew there was Monsanto product in the batch he was buying, then he knowingly opened himself to legal action.

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