A long-lasting court fight over patented soybeans is over, and agribusiness giant Monsanto has won.
In a decision issued today, the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Monsanto must be allowed to patent its seeds—and it must be able to punish farmers who try to dodge the patents.
Farmers are compelled to sign a patent agreement when they buy Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant soybeans, promising that they won’t use the seeds to produce additional crops. A small-time Indiana farmer, Vernon Bowman, tried to avoid signing that agreement by simply buying a batch of undifferentiated “bin grain” from a grain elevator. Bowman went ahead and sprayed his crops with glyphosate, knowing that because Monsanto’s genetically altered seed has become ubiquitous in the food supply, around 90 percent of soybeans would have the Roundup Ready trait that provides resistance to that herbicide.