Target: Supreme Court of the United States
Goal: Ensure that large agribusiness corporations cannot have complete control over commercial agriculture
For years, bullying farmers through US patent courts (better known as the Federal Circuit) has been the favorite pastime of multinational corporations like Monsanto. Easily able to outmaneuver and outspend farmers, these corporations have all but had their way in rulings involving the use of their patented seeds and herbicide Roundup. However, Indiana farmer Hugh Bowman was able to find a loophole that allowed him to reuse Monsanto’s soybean seed. Naturally, Monsanto has attempted to put a stop to this, but despite the Federal Circuit’s rulings in favor of Monsanto, Mr. Bowman is about to have his case heard by the Supreme Court.
The facts and figures surrounding Monsanto’s ever-increasing control over the world’s food supply are staggering. According to the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds, Monsanto and a consortium of nine other agribusiness corporations own patents on seeds for 65 percent of commercially produced agriculture. They are able to control these seeds because they have invested in modifying the genetic structure of the seeds such that they are resistant to various herbicides and pesticides—most often the companies own brand of weed or insect killer. In doing so, the seed becomes the intellectual property of Monsanto. The consequence of this is that while farmers may pay to use Monsanto’s seeds, they are not legally permitted to replant the resultant crops’ seeds—the progeny of Monsanto’s seed is the property of Monsanto and farmers must pay to use those seeds as well. Whenever a farmer is caught doing otherwise, Monsanto sends its legions of lawyers and lobbyists after these farmers.
However, recently Indiana farmer Hugh Bowman was able to exploit a loophole which allowed him to purchase soybean seeds from a grain elevator which contained Monsanto’s patented variety of soybean for planting in his second crop (these crops are planted later in the growing season and are a high risk, high reward venture). The inherent risk of a second crop makes purchasing seeds from Monsanto unviable as the cost of crop failure is too damaging for the farmer to risk. However, Monsanto caught wind of this practice and began the process of dragging Mr. Bowman through the Federal Circuit. As is to be expected, the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of Monsanto. While most cases of patent infringement die in the circuit due to the legal costs of fighting massive multinational corporations, Mr. Bowman’s case has made it to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mr. Bowman, it would be a landmark case and a blow to Monsanto and the other agribusiness corporations’ ability to control commercial agriculture. Given that allowing the US and the world’s food supply to be controlled by a handful of corporations presents a serious threat, we must take action to ensure that the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mr. Bowman.
Dear Supreme Court of the United States,
The current state of affairs involving patent laws in commercial agriculture is deplorable. We are currently allowing a small group of agribusiness corporations to slowly take control of commercial agriculture and ultimately our food supply. Furthermore, we have been complacent in allowing small farmers to be bullied by corporations like Monsanto.
In adjudicating Mr. Hugh Bowman’s case of patent infringement of Monsanto’s soybean, please remember to do the just thing and rule in his favor. Monsanto cannot be allowed to control every aspect of seed manufacturing. There must be some logical end point wherein a company’s patent over genetic material is exhausted. In fact, that a corporation should ever be able to control genetic material is a dubious proposition at best—much less the progeny of that genetic material.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Malinky via Flickr