Seventy-five year old Indiana grain farmer Vernon Bowman joined HuffPost Live Wednesday to discuss his patent battle against global seed giant Monsanto, which has reached the Supreme Court and which could have significant consequences for the farming and biotech industries.
Bowman, who faces $84,456 in damages over Monsanto’s claims that he infringed its patents by growing plants that contained its genetics, told HuffPost Live host Josh Zepps why he feels he’s done nothing wrong, let alone illegal.
Monsanto makes each farmer that buys their grain sign a contract saying they will not save seeds from the crop planted, thus ensuring that they are not creating new generations of Roundup Ready soybean that infringes Monsanto’s patent.
Bowman said that he had gone to a grain elevator to buy a mix of grain, which happened to include the Roundup Ready Monsanto grain. Because it was a mix that he bought and not patented seeds from the initial sale, Bowman said he could plant them and create more grain to use without having done anything wrong.
“If they then claim that I can’t use that, they’re forcing their patent on me,” Bowman said. “No law was ever passed that said no farmers can’t go to the elevator and buy grain and use it, so to me they either forced their patent on me or they abandoned their patent by allowing it to be dumped it with non-Roundup grain.”
According to a Supreme Court transcript from Tuesday, it is the beans that grew from that second batch which are cause for alarm.
“The problem for you here, I think, is that, infringement lies in the fact that he made generation three,” Justice Breyer said in the transcript arguing that the bean he bought could be used for any other purpose legally, except for making a new crop. “Now, there’s another law that says you cannot make copies of a patented invention. And that law you have violated when you use it to make generation three, just as you have violated the law against assault were you to use it to commit an assault.”
“Monsanto is just grabbing straws and it appears to me that the Supreme Court is buying it,” he told Zepps. “No Monsanto literature was ever printed that said that I couldn’t go to the elevator and buy commodity grain and plant it if I wanted to.”