Prevent Biotech Companies from Patenting Genes

Soy

Target: U.S. Supreme Court

Goal: Rule that Monsanto and other biotech companies may not patent genes, and protect farmers from paying unfair fees.

An Indiana farmer is facing Monsanto in the Supreme Court over the unauthorized use of soybean seeds which contain genes developed by the biotechnology corporation. A ruling favourable for Monsanto would have huge implications for all biotech companies which then could demand licensing fees for every occurrence of patented genetic material down the line.

The U.S. Patent Office and courts’ favour towards Monsanto has been disastrous to farmers throughout the country, who are restricted from saving seed, punished for growing Monsanto seed without a contract, and all but forced to grow the genetically altered seeds which contaminate their fields via wind. Farmers have taken the corporation to court and lost one case after another as Monsanto’s power has grown. But such a case adopted by the Supreme Court may have the potential to turn the tables; either way, the decision will be very influential. The soy farmer from Indiana who is involved in this case has been growing Monsato’s seeds legally for years, although he has been doing so by taking advantage of a loophole. Though he would purchase the seeds each year for a first planting, he would buy seeds for his second planting from a local grain elevator. Farmers are allowed to sell seed to these elevators without verifying whether the seeds contain the genetic material of Monsanto seeds. Thus, the farmer would select for the seeds which were resistant to herbicide (contained genetic material developed by Monsanto), and was able to grow a second crop of herbicide-resistant soy each year without purchasing Monsanto seed.

While Monsanto argues that it has complete rights over all patented material in perpetuity, a Supreme Court case regarding patents ruled in 2008 that patent rights do not extend throughout the supply chain. The Supreme Court must uphold this decision regarding patents and unequivocally apply it to Monsanto in this case, or else risk placing absurd rights and power in the hands of biotechnology companies.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear U.S. Supreme Court,

The biotechnology corporation Monsanto and an Indiana soy farmer are involved in a case regarding the extent of patent rights over genetic material. Considering how much power Monsanto has gained in terms of patent rights through many court cases in the past, the fact that the Supreme Court has adopted this case suggests that there is finally hope for a just ruling limiting Monsanto’s rights and power.

For years, this Indiana farmer has been buying seed both from Monsanto and from a local grain elevator, which happens to supply seed with herbicide-resistant genetic material originally developed by Monsanto. This localized sale is legal, and technically Monsanto cannot demand payment for the use of these seeds because the patented material has been passed down the supply chain. At this point, patent rights are exhausted according to a 2008 Supreme Court case.

The Supreme Court must uphold and specify this decision, considering the havoc Monsanto has wreaked on many American farmers, and the undue power it and other biotechnology companies would receive from a favourable decision. Please rule that patent rights do not extend down to all subsequent occurrences in the supply chain or in nature. Take an important step towards preventing the patenting of genetic material.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous via Flickr

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2 Comments

  1. Jordan Williamson says:

    This is just another example of antiquated laws that Congress refuses to reform. What began as a way to encourage innovation, has now created a system that favors big corporations and squashes innovation.

  2. Unethical and dangerous.

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