The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has handed national seed giant Monsanto a large victory by ruling unanimously that their patent on genetically modified seeds prevents farmers from replanting their intellectual property and selling the crops.
The case rose out of a dispute between seed giant Monsanto and Indiana soy bean farmer Vernon Bowman. Once a chemical maker, Monsanto now makes about 90 percent of the soybean seeds sold in the United States, according to Marketplace. Their dominance in the market over the last two decades has been spurred by its Round-Up resistant seed. The company holds the patent on the genetically modified seed for a soy bean plant that can survive being doused with Round-Up weed killer.
The seeds cost about three times what unmodified seeds sell for, though some argue that the increased yields make-up for increased costs, according to Marketplace.
Bowman, like most farmers, purchased seed for his main soybean crops from Monsanto. He also grew and sold an experimental crop using a mix of unmodified seeds and stray weed killer resistant seed found at his local grain elevator. Bowman argued that Monsanto's patent on the seeds was exhausted as soon as a buyer planted them.
SCOTUS did not agree. They noted that while Bowman would have been free to eat the seed, feed it to animal or sell it himself, by planting the seeds he was essentially copying Monsanto's patented materials and violating their patent.