Monsanto Wins GMO Seed Patent Fight at Supreme Court

inside a Monsanto Co. lab in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., on Thursday, April 15, 2010. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court said Monday that an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto Co.'s (MON) patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer by growing additional crops without buying new beans.

The justices unanimously rejected the farmer's argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company's Roundup herbicide.

While Monsanto won this case, the court refused to make a sweeping decision that would cover other self-replicating technologies like DNA molecules and nanotechnologies, leaving that for another day. Businesses and researchers had been closely watching this case in hopes of getting guidance on patents, but Justice Elena Kagan said the court's holding Monday only "addresses the situation before us."

In a statement, Monsanto officials said they were pleased with the court's ruling.

"The court's ruling today ensures that longstanding principles of patent law apply to breakthrough 21st century technologies that are central to meeting the growing demands of our planet and its people," said David F. Snively, Monsanto's top lawyer "The ruling also provides assurance to all inventors throughout the public and private sectors that they can and should continue to invest in innovation that feeds people, improves lives, creates jobs, and allows America to keep its competitive edge."

In the case decided by the court, farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman bought expensive, patented Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" seeds for his main crop of soybeans, but decided to look for something cheaper for a risky, late-season soybean planting. He went to a grain elevator that held soybeans it typically sells for feed, milling and other uses, but not as seed.

Bowman reasoned that most of those soybeans also would be resistant to weed killers, as they initially came from herbicide-resistant seeds too. He was right, and he bought soybeans from the grain elevator and planted them over eight years. In 2007, Monsanto sued and won an $84,456 judgment.

Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year. More than 90 percent of American soybean farms use Monsanto's seeds, which first came on the market in 1996.

Bowman's lawyers argued that Monsanto's patent rights stopped with the sale of the first crop of beans instead of extending to each new crop soybean farmers grow that has the gene modification that allows it to withstand the application of weed-killer.

But Kagan disagreed. "Bowman planted Monsanto's patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article," she said. "Patent exhaustion provides no haven for such conduct."

Bowman also said he should not be liable, in part, because soybeans naturally sprout when planted.

Kagan said the court also did not buy that argument. "We think the blame-the-bean defense tough to credit," she said.

Calls to Bowman by The Associated Press were unanswered.

In other decisions:

- Justices said unanimously that use of the bankruptcy term "defalcation" requires an intentional wrong. This came in a case where an Illinois man took improper loans from his father's trust, the first at his father's direction.

- They also unanimously said that federal law does not pre-empt a state law claim against a New Hampshire towing company that towed, stored and then disposed of a car owned by a man who was seriously ill in a hospital.

The soybean case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 11-796.


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Of course Monsanto won!!! Look up the ties between the FDA monsanto and the supreme court. They all hold hands and own the food sources of the US and other countries. No surprise in the outcome of this case. SOS DD

May 14 2013 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

GMO seeds don't increase crop yield, they just make it herbicide resistant so it can be sprayed with a chemical cocktail and not die. Further more, there is a hypothesis that the spike in food allergies is related to the flood of GMO corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And who can forget the mass suicides of Indian farmers? Monsanto rakes in high profits while spreading death and disease. Shame on the government for not protecting the people from this monster!

May 14 2013 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thick envelopes under the table

May 14 2013 at 4:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder how Monsanto caught the dude...

May 14 2013 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With Clarence Thomas being Monsanto's lawyer, is it any surprise they win a Supreme Court case? This is the most crooked company AND court in the history of the US. And I'm not the only one who has noticed this.

May 14 2013 at 12:25 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Over the last 10 years Monsanto has spent over $52 million dollars making sure they get the most favorable legislation possible. Of that $52 million, nearly $11 million was paid to outside lobbying firms (listed below) to lobby on behalf of Monsanto, while the rest of the total (over $40 million) was spent on Monsanto’s staff lobbyists.

May 13 2013 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Monsanto GMO is Frankenfood...

May 13 2013 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is UNBELIEVABLE! The supreme court has made a decision that will affect your FOOD FOREVER. Monsanto, the people who have grafted POISON PESTICIDE into the DNA of their plants are killing everyone who eats their food a little bit at a time. MONSANTO, the Company who make the worlds most dangerous chemicals like: DDT, AGENT ORANGE, Roundup is now going to be in charge of our FOOD! A chemical company! The grafted the dangerous poison into their food plants in order to keep the bugs from eating their crops. IT DOESN'T WORK! The bugs quickly became resistant to the PESTICIDE IN the crops so they put more Pesticide in the DNA and they also had to SPRAY the crops! So, Pesticide is IN the DNA of the plant AND it's also ON the food crops! You are EATING this POISON and you don't even know it. When their POISONED crops blow in the wind, they make ALL the crops around them, including ORGANIC crops into GMO/GM crops. From blowing in the wind! Then they SUE the other farmers for "stealing" their PATENTED CROPS! These food plants have NEVER been found to be safe. You are eating PESTICIDES in huge amounts when you eat GMO/GE foods! Guess what? They DON'T have to LABEL them, so you will NEVER know when you're eating their toxic Pesticides. Plus, MONSANTO wants to OWN ALL of the food patents on ALL of the seeds which will of course be GE/GMO. A CHEMICAL company want to OWN the rights to YOUR food! It's TRUE, it's REAL and it's happening right now. The SUPREME COURT is bowing down to BIG AG and NOT protecting the consumer from Franken Plants! YOUR health is NO concern of theirs. Who doesn't know that your NEVER EAT PESTICIDES? Now we are going to be eating them all day long if MONSANTO has their way. So far they HAVE. Do you wonder how this could happen? Read this from the Organic website:
"The USDA has never denied a single application from Monsanto for new genetically engineered crops.

Monsanto's growth hormones for cows have been approved by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist turned USDA administrator and FDA deputy commissioner. This was after Margaret Miller, a former Monsanto employee, oversaw a report on the hormones' safety and then took a job at the FDA where she approved her own report.

Islam Siddiqui, a former Monsanto lobbyist, wrote the USDA's food standards, allowing corporations to label irradiated and genetically engineered foods as "organic." The recently passed and signed law nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act strips federal courts of the power to halt the sale and planting of genetically engineered crops during a legal appeals process.

Monsanto's board members have worked for the EPA, advised the USDA, and served on President Obama's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

An investigation of large-scale government corruption by this singularly destructive corporation is long overdue"

May 13 2013 at 11:11 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

There is a growing list of countries, many of them 3rd world countries that have banned GE foods because they have not been adequately proven safe for human consumption. Where does the "greatest country in the world" stand on the issue? Come on in boys. Put as many GE crops on the plates of Americans. Not only won't we ban it, but we won't even require you to label it. There's profits to be made. Anyway, if the lifespan in the US is shortened, there won't be as much of a social security issue will there?

May 13 2013 at 11:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

After Citizens United, was there ever any doubt how the outcome of this case would be? More proof that the highest court in the land is only there to represent one group (and it ain't us). Chalk up another victory for the bad guys, handed down by the bad guys. Just one big happy family.

May 13 2013 at 10:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply