OFW Law attorneys Gary H. Baise, Stewart D. Fried and John G. Dillard have filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the American Soybean Association, 15 state soybean associations, the National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, and Growers for Biotechnology in a case of immense importance to America’s farmers.
In Bowman v. Monsanto, the Supreme Court will address whether Monsanto’s patent rights in Roundup Ready® soybean seeds extend to new soybeans grown by an Indiana farmer who purchased unlabeled soybeans from a grain elevator. After paying Monsanto’s license fee for several years and knowing that almost all of the conventional soybeans grown in Indiana carried a genetically modified trait which make them glyphosate-resistant, Vernon Bowman purchased commodity soybeans for planting as a second crop. After spraying his fields with Roundup®, thereby killing the soybeans (and weeds) that did not carry the trait and taking advantage of Monsanto’s technology, he cultivated several soybean crops and saved seeds for re-planting.
After Bowman continued this unorthodox license fee circumvention practice for more than six years, Monsanto brought suit for patent infringement. An Indiana federal district court concluded Bowman infringed on several of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® soybean patents. The Federal Circuit affirmed and the Supreme Court decided to hear the case last fall.
OFW Law’s amicus brief on behalf America’s soybean, wheat, corn and sugar beet producers takes the position that if farmers can do an end-run around Monsanto’s license fees by purchasing grain from elevators for planting, a domino effect would ensue. To remain competitive, more farmers would need to gamble on buying commodity grain for planting. Of course, commodity soybeans sold by an elevator do not comply with federal or state seed laws regarding labeling or certification and therefore farmers know little about the germination rate, moisture content, weed percentage or other important planting-related information about the grain they are purchasing. As sales and profits decline, Monsanto would likely divert R&D away from soybean biotech research and ultimately, there would be less agricultural, seed-related innovation. This would likely have serious impacts on American farmers and society as a whole as the world’s population is rapidly increasing, ever-more food is needed and less land is available for agriculture.
Oral argument will take place before the Supreme Court on February 19th and a decision is expected during the late spring.