This past Monday, I read the news that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto against soybean farmer Vernon Bowman of Indiana (7-0). Much to the chagrin of organic farming enthusiasts and the anti-GMO movement, the Supreme Court was right. I’ve read both sides and from what I understand the farmer devised a way to basically steal the patented seeds. He was clever but it violated patent law and Justice Kagan was right when she said, “Blaming the bean” was unworthy.
But the patent law and this case are far removed from the broader ethical issue of Monsanto owning genetic material that can be transported via nature – bees, butterflies, bats and even wind. The Monsanto v. Bowman case is the tip of the ethical iceberg that is poised to sink the family farm – non-GMO – organic boat, in a sea with corporate U-boats taking control of seeds, agriculture, and life itself. The Supreme Court has made the “death star” of corporate greed fully operational.
I don’t believe the patent law established in the Constitution in 1787 was intended to have purview over wind pollinated, genetically engineered sperm cells (pollen) or anything to do with the forces of nature carrying your patented product onto other farms. Our founding fathers didn’t know what a chromosome was let alone modifying or owning them.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States:
“The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
For the “constitution strictest” the Supreme Court was right in the Bowman vs. Monsanto case.
There’s another case climbing the ladder to the Supreme Court that deals with pollination pollution. It’s a class action lawsuit against Monsanto brought on by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA). They have been defeated in lower courts but continue to appeal.
They want protection to grow their own crops without their plant ovaries being raped by the wind-born genetically modified pollen of multinational corporations. They should be “sceered” (scared) since it is very difficult to control wind-blown pollination thus Monsanto sues for thievery and wins.
Sixty percent of the calories consumed in the world by humans come from corn, wheat, and rice. All three crops are annual grasses that reproduce via wind pollination. All three crops have patented “roundup ready” seeds.
It’s another tip of that ethical iceberg about to sink the family-farm boat.
Maybe the patent laws or their interpretation need to be amended. We need to differentiate between the pursuit of happiness by people and the pursuit of money by corporations. We need incentives for corporations to put mankind and the stewardship of natural capital on the same deck with profit. Only then will the flotilla of tiny family farm ships be able to make a decent living without fear of hitting the hull crushing iceberg of corporate greed.
Bobby – you need to send this to the newspapers!
There was no contest re the SCOTUS decision. In the life we lead in corporate America, ethics has nothing to do with it; it’s all about the money. That reality is the down side of capitalism, which is a wonderful system in most respects.
Try not to worry about reigning in corporate greed and short sightedness. In the present and foreseeable political climate, it ain’t gonna happen.
Walter, thanks for stopping by and posting a comment.
Thanks for sharing the details of the case. I’d seen the usual Facebook talk about how bad it was that Monsanto won, but your perspective on the patent law clarifies things for me. I’ll be eager to see what happens in that second case about the pollination pollution. That seems to be the really scary and more legally significant issue.
Nice blog post. I agree with you 100% about Monsanto and their efforts to “own” all the seeds. Have you been through an airport recently? There are lots of one-sided adds about how great Monsanto is because without them, we wouldn’t be able to feed the world. While that is to some extent true, the idea that we should cast all genetic diversity out the window and only use Monsanto GMO seeds that yield more, tolerate drought better, and are Round-up ready is really shortsighted.
Ask the Irish about growing one potato variety back in the 1850’s. There still trying to get past that potato fungi.
Speaking of Europeans, how do they deal with wind driven pollen issues? I know the EU is much tougher on GMO issues than we are, but doubtless there are some organic farmers next to Monsanto farmers over there too.
Thanks for writing this post, Bobby, and I love the navel motif. Monsanto as the big bad Pacific Fleet, or maybe even better, Monsanto as Admiral Hirohito’s task force steaming toward Oahu to upset the Naval balance of power (and therefore the world) back in 1941……George
George, very well stated and I agree with you 100%. Thanks as always for your help and friendship.
Hi Bobby – Very well put. The issue of GMOs is one that causes me concern in both my professional and personal lives. I’m on the board of a local food co-op that has been wrestling with how to deal with GMOs in our product selection and information shared with shoppers. The idea that GMO genes can contaminate organic crops is “sceery” indeed, and with the law being based in 18th century scientific understanding, we have little recourse to deal with this issue.
Time for some real change isn’t’ it? Thanks for the teleconference yesterday on CRP. Thanks so much for stopping by on my website and leaving a comment.
I agree completely with your post. Right decision by the Supreme Court but dangerous precedent. Even the backyard vegetable grower should be concerned about loss of seed diversity as Monsanto has purchased many of the vegetable seed companies during the last decade and the variety of seeds available has dropped significantly. Seek out and save heirlooms!
Ann that’s pretty sceery…….Thanks for your comment.
Excellent rant Bobby!
Monsanto will eventually lose but it will be too late for the natural farmers (including myself) and those growing open pollinated seeds. Former Monsanto employees have infiltrated the highest offices in government including the Supreme Court and will continue to buy influence and control. I will say no more for fear of reprisal. There are plenty of others carrying on the fight.
Jim, keep up the good work and thanks for stopping by on my website. Good comment.
You said it so well, Bobby. This court case was flawed from the start and didn’t address the real issue. Tell Monsanto to get their proprietary pollen off my farm.
Right on Leo! I think it will take more than me telling me though…maybe we could take to the wind god. We might have more luck there.
Thanks for this most interesting assessment. I await the next case, which you have convinced me is the more important one. Very, very scary. Please do a similar analysis when the next case comes up.
So well put Bobby! Interesting story on NPR this morning about patent law since the founders came up with Article 1, Section 8…then it was mostly about industry and authorship. Now corporations are people…seems like a rigged deal, hmm!
Thanks Chris for posting your comment. I will definitely have something to say when Judge Rambo makes her decision.
As always – you back up your rants with facts and research. I agree with you and other commentators about the precedence and greed issues – and the need to save diversified heritage “stock”. Would recommend sending your comments not only to the media but also to our Supreme Court justices. The case coming down the line is much bigger than this one.
Faye, thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I did no know you could send a comment to the Supreme Court.
Faye, thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I did not know you could send a comment to the Supreme Court.
Bobby et al – I understood that the EU had banned GMO seeds — that there is NOT this problem in Europe because those seeds should not be planted…
Maybe that’s wishful thinking — or Facebook mis-information!
Marynell, I think you are correct. Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave a comment.
Way to tell it Bobby! You are absolutely right. We are in a sticky part of history that I hope we wriggle out of unscathed by corporate greed, injustice and selfishness – Its as if these monsters have no foresight or care for future generations. We need to get serious about growing our own foods wherever we are. And if we do that we have to stand up for our rights to grow whatever we want, wherever we please. We need to band together to create a local food economy that does not require food from anywhere else. To do this we must be content with what we can grow and when it is available and stop believing the myth that it is healthy to eat all foods in all seasons. It should be completely obvious that if we were supposed to eat peaches in January that they would be ripe then! So, if we take care of our soils, we have a terrific opportunity as well as responsibility to make this happen in the next couple of years. I am counting on this happening. In the meanwhile, we all need to write our representatives and gripe about this GMO nonsense. Thanks Bobby for reaching out!
Laurie, thanks for taking the time to post a comment and for your kind words. You are doing what needs to be done and providing wonderful leadership at the AMS. I feel very fortunate to be a part of that.
This case does set a precedent that narrows the interpretation of patent law regarding GMOs. The opportunity for the Supreme Court to draw a line in the sand is quickly fading as law and decisions are made in favor for Monsanto. I would really like to read the case ruling to see the level of scrutiny they used and from where it came from. The worldwide protest that are happening this weekend will be fueled more by this ruling. Thank you for posting this.
I am looking forward to meeting you when you come to the mountain Friday.
Paul, thanks for your post, very well written. Looking forward to meeting you as well.
This is very “sceery” indeed. Although any concession made to Monsanto is very disagreeable to me as it expands their illegitimate rights and feels like we as a species are walking further away from righting the wrongs we have committed, it does emphasize the importance of tactics in fighting the spread of GMOs. Finding loopholes to chip away at their greed and tyranny will never stop them and should be below us. The system has been rigged in the coporations favor, creating loopholes that give them rights that are not theirs. When capital needs are given primacy over human needs the system is obviously broken. Although ultimately, the battle against the spread of GMOs will be legal, I strongly believe grassroots organizing against GMOs and look forward to the march against them in D.C.
Although the battle must be waged on a global level, I also want to continue to wage the battle within me, and expel any thought processes that allowed GMOs to gain their current status in the first place. Yes it is greed, yes it is hubris, but ultimately we human beings have created this problem, and the problem and the solution lies in each and everyone of us. Thank you Bobby for creating this space to discuss this hugely influential issue.
Ian, thanks for stopping by. I am looking forward to meeting you Friday. Very well articulated rant yourself.
Well put Bobby. I’ve been realizing lately that when this current moment is remembered in history books a hundred years from now, this issue will be the characteristic that defines it. I’m nervous but hopeful as to how it will be handled in the coming twenty or so years, especially as we see a new generation coming through into the policy arena and the general public.
In the meantime, I think it’s important for us all to stay brushed up on the basic facts and arguments, so we can share them with those who are maybe undecided or uninformed about the issue. It’s important that our message not bounce around among those who already support it… so that’s something I’ll be working on in the next year or two. Any resources you have for that would be super appreciated!
Thanks for these thoughts with us.
Kate, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post a comment. Your comment is very well written and I will be glad to help.
Just wanted to stop by and say great piece above, very eloquently argued.
We have been covering the Organic v Monsanto case in our magazine, (http://www.ecotextile.com/2013022011925/materials-production-news/monsanto-and-osgta-at-loggerheads.html) which is an environmental magazine for the global textile supply chain.
The case is, indeed, an alarming one. Will be interested to hear your views when – as one might expect – the court rules in favour of Monsanto…
Bret, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Thanks for the heads up on your magazine coverage. If I can be of help please let me know.
Thanks Bobby, I will do,
I agree that what the farmer did was unethical, but also, as you said, the fact that Monsanto owns genetic material opens up an entire new can of worms about whether or not it is ethical in the first place to own genetic material, especially when so much of it is windblown or distributed by animals. This gives the farmer a distinct disadvantage and I would argue that it is unethical for Monsanto to own genetic material. This blog post was very informative and well argued, and although I only knew a little bit about the issue, I want to learn more as this is an enormous problem.
Very interesting post Professor! I had not heard about this case before reading this. I’m not quite sure if I fully understand what occurred, but I think you gave a very unbiased response. I still don’t know how to feel about the GMO debate in general; hopefully we will cover that some more in class.
I believe it is necessary for patent laws or their interpretation to be amended. Leaving these policies the way they are will only create more issues like the Monsato v. Bowman Case. Also, the contamination of organic crops due to the GMO crops is something that we should not even have to worry about, however, it is the reality of today’s world. It truly is sad that corporate greed is negatively changing the way we live our lives.
This was an intriguing blog post!
Good read Professor. When I took GS 429 with Professor Teele last semester he opened my eyes to the corporate greed of Monsanto. It’s a shame they’re legally able to roll over small scale operations (granted, the case you presented is somewhat debatable- I hate to agree with Monsanto but he did knowingly and intentionally carry out theft). Still, there have been a many times in the past where, like you said, farmers had no control over pollen transmission whether it be by wind, animal, etc. and Monsanto crushed them like an ant. I fear that this corporate powerhouse may one day control a sizable portion of the food in not only this country but also the world… all while operating under the guise of “being about farmers” (Monsanto.com). The real question is; are there any ways to stop Monsanto? GMOs are here to stay; not that they’re a bad thing (think Norman Borlaug). However, when they end up in the wrong hands it’s easy to see how serious problems may be just around the corner in terms of food security and corporate monopolization.
While it may be distasteful to some to see the verdict go in favor of the large-scale corporation Monsanto over the smaller farming operation, it is undoubtedly the right call. If the Supreme Court would have allowed such an action to slide, it would have been a huge blow to companies that are developing genetically modified crops, an area that is of increasing importance. If farmers (and therefore competitors) where allowed to steal genetically altered “property” it would make the field unable to produce a profit and would cause innovation in the sector to falter and stop. The ruling was a just one and a step in the right direction in terms of feeding the world using genetically modified crops.
I got some exposure to this issue last year in ISAT 350. We watched a video with some interviews with farmers that were being investigated for stealing the round up ready seeds. They were all very adamant that if it were up to them they would want nothing to do with Monsanto and it was preposterous to think that they were stealing it. I remember being very upset that the justice system is so currently blind to the issue and that they don’t see a reason to maybe interpret the Constitution differently in this day in age. I agree that Monsanto V. Bowman case was ruled correctly but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t different circumstances going on here with different farmers.
Unfortunately, I sometimes feel that the American people don’t have the courage or the gusto to make their opinions, thoughts, and feelings heard. This case is an example where I believe the American people do need to get involved. Monsanto has a monopoly on patented crops and seeds but the American people have the ultimate power of what gets grown, and they control this with their power of choice. It comes down to what the consumers (American people) choose to purchase and eat. The consumers control the farmers because the farmers will grow what the people will buy and as a result Monsanto will have to change its ways too. It’s kind of ironic that on paper, it seems Monsanto has all the power but really it comes down to what the consumer purchases. The power is in the American people’s hands.
Great article, clear and concise on the larger issue at hand with the dynamics between large corporations like Monsanto and family-farms. There will inevitably be cases to come, hopefully which will help the family-farms.
It’s hard to believe that a cooperation could come knocking on the door of a farm owner and successfully sue them because their plants were pollinated by there crops even though corn is pollinated by the wind!! It is very scary to think that someone can try to control the wind and use it to make money off of a natural process!
It seems as though the organic farmers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Monsanto’s product can get into their crops without them even knowing, and then after their crop has been raped, they get sued for it. Like you said the laws were made before anything like this was invented or could even be comprehended. Laws become outdated more frequently than people realize, and many people are suffering because the law hasn’t caught up with technology. The bottom line seems to be that the organic family owned farms will become a thing of the past unless law makers take action. I really hope to see a change in this situation in the near future.
I agree that this is just the beginning of the legal woes of organic farmers. Going beyond issues with patents, are there possible legal repercussions for an organic farmer who advertises that his crops are organic when they are (unknowingly) selling crops contaminated with GM pollen? This would mean that they are not following federal guidelines for organic food, correct? Is it the responsibility of the farmer to pay for the testing of his food, is that fair that they have to pay the price?
I think that GMOs are a necessity if we plan on feeding more than 6 billion people, however I feel that the rights of those that don’t want to consume GMO’s aren’t being fully protected under current legislation.
Food Inc. the documentary touches upon this Monsanto v. Bowman case at the very end. It left a lot of information out. This post was very informative and it gave me a better overall perspective of the case. While the farmers were actually in the wrong on this case, the other issue is the owning of genetic makeup. Another issue is the round up ready seeds naturally blowing into the local farmers crops. This quote – “We need to differentiate between the pursuit of happiness by people and the pursuit of money by corporations.” resonated with me and I couldnt agree more with it. Great post!
First of all, I really like your analogy! I feel like family farms are extremely undervalued in our country, and we are slowly losing to them to Americans affinity for “right here, right now” products. It amazes me that lower courts could rule against the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association when they are simply try to protect themselves from an almost inevitable thievery lawsuit from corporations like Monsanto. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will have more sense and afford some protection to the OSGTA. I really appreciate your somewhat unbiased view of the court case as well. I had heard about this case over the summer, and had formed my distasteful conclusion of Monsanto before I had all the facts. This really helps open my eyes to the fact that I cant just side with what I believe in, I need to make sure I know the whole story first.
I’m all for the idea of making crops easier to grow and produce more yield when we are able to, but the idea of someone controlling that for money is ridiculous. You cannot regulate which way the wind blows and some farmers are acquiring these patented crops when they do not want them. Since Brown was intentionally stealing, the ruling was correct. But farmers lives and way of living have been ruined by Monsanto when they acquire the modified material by accident.
This was a very interesting read, highlighting the battle between local farmers and a giant corporation like Monsanto. While I do believe that the law was on the right side, it is unfortunate to see local farmers suffer so much and get burdened by the high costs of these seeds. I am, however, a fan of GMO’s and believe that we should be following in that direction.
I think your point about the bigger controversy being at the heart of this argument has really been understated in the media. I have heard about Monsanto and GMOs but the discussion is always about the negative health effects rather than the implications of windblown genetically altered material contaminating nearby crops. People seem to think that their choice to buy non GMO foods is something that is not at risk. After reading your blog post I have a new reason to think twice about backing the Monsanto “super crops”, not on the principle of consumption, but rather on the principle of freedom of natural cycles. That is something I do not believe should be allowed to be owned.
It is odd to think that something like a seed is legally owned by a corporation who can take legal action against you if it is naturally blown onto your land. It seems as though the corporations are intentionally trying to own all rights to food. On one hand, this is necessary and overall a great thing because it’s this type of practice that makes it possible to feed the world. On the other hand, it kills family farms. Nothing is ever black and white, but grey is sometimes hard to take in.
“We need incentives for corporations to put mankind and the stewardship of natural capital on the same deck with profit” – this statement jumped out at me from the post the most because I feel like it’s not only very true but also quite thought-provoking. What types of incentives do you think Professor could be offered to effectively persuade big business corporations to forfeit potential profit in the name of supporting environmental stewardship? In such a competitive day and age, do you think monetary incentives are all that could get a huge corporation to change its behavior so that it doesn’t have to forfeit any profit?
This brings up an interesting issue. Bowman deliberately captured the Roundup-Ready seed with the intent of not having to pay to use it and deserved the ruling. However, in other cases, since the seeds are wind pollinating, anyone’s crop could be pollinated by the Roundup-Ready seeds unintentionally and they shouldn’t be prosecuted. As genetic modifications of seeds increases by corporations, new and revised laws will need to be put into place defining the ownership of the pollen and its limits.
I find this issue of patented genes to be very distressing. It seems terribly unethical for someone to own a whole variety of a any living thing. I say someone because of the rights that corporations are allowed. I think that calling life property in this way is an example of destructive and out of control human pride.
I have these views even before we get to the points about how the pollen from there plants gets into the air. At that point, I feel that it is an issue of freedom. If I do not want to have GM pollen, do I not have a right to be without it? If I have a piece of land,is it not part of my rights as a property owner as to what I allow and do not allow on that land? By allowing these plants to be released into the field, the rights of those who do not want GM pollen on their land are being violated. It is adding insult to injury to then hold that those who have had this pollen forced on them are thieves, criminal. The opposite is true. They are victims of great villains. Unfortunately, those villains have the ear of our government more that the people.
I couldn’t agree more with your post. It is not fair to take legal action against something that is out of someone’s control. I think it’s good that corporations are trying to gain control of the food system, however, it could also be a scary thought. What will happen to small local farms? What other actions will be taken? Who knows what the future will bring at this point.
I definitely also agree with the courts ruling in that he was purposefully gathering the seed without proper compensation to the producer, which is technically stealing. I do think the process of wind pollination is inevitable however and it would be next to impossible to prevent this process from occurring, especially if you didn’t know it was. This definitely needs to be considered on a case by case basis and people should only be prosecuted if they are doing this intentionally. Therefor I also agree the current laws need to be better interpreted or changed so that the laws are not primarily benefiting the large corporations and providing them with large sums of money for suing farmers, they need to have the farmer’s best interest in mind as well.
I found this article to be very interesting and I feel that the vast majority of crops in the future will be genetically modified. Family and organic farms should not have to worry about the pollen from GMO companies and I find it to be outrageous that a company can accuse a farm for stealing wind-blown pollen. The transportation and spreading of pollen is something that nature controls and there should not be laws passed to give a company rights to pollen. If a farmer were to steal the seeds or pollen on purpose (without the help from wind), then government intervention should take place, such as the court case described above. We should continue to protect farms, crops, and their rights, while working to create compromises between the commercial and family farm worlds.
The fact that corporation can sue you for something that you have no control over seems extremely crooked and unethical. Nobody should have to worry whether or not they will get in trouble if Monsanto’s genetically modified material ends up on their crop land by natural causes such as bees, butterflies, and wind. I think eventually a line needs to be drawn so the average everyday farmer can do what has probably been done in their family for generations without having to worry about their crop land becoming contaminated with Monsanto’s genetically mdodifed material. Farmers need to be protected from greedy companies like Monsanto.
I agree with you. The court was right in this case, but I agree with Mr. Gimenez (from one of your links) that the law itself is the issue. I am interested to see where this next case will go and if it will have any luck in the Supreme Court. I’m curious where you see the case going, seeing as it is many farmers suing Monsanto, and not for an idea rather than an action.
What if he had not wanted round up ready corn in the first place? How would that have changed the rulling? Is that what the next case is about? It just doesn’t seem right to patent this genetic modification and expect people to pay to use it when its so widely and easily spread.
This case serves as the first ruling about genetically modified crops and the ownership of material that is smaller than the eye can see. I understand how the court made the ruling but I agree with you that changes need to be made sooner, not later. There is a fine line between innocence and thievery, I hope our judicial system continues to see both sides of the seed.
Good post Professor. It seems like it such a tricky legal subject. Since Bowman fully knew what he was doing was illegal, it seems that it may have been appropriate he got in trouble. But this law seems so flimsy in my opinion. It must be very difficult to differentiate between naturally pollinated plants vs. intentionally pollenated plants. I can see how easily farmers attempting to avoid GMO can be pushed out by this large corporation. Non-GMO farmers look like they are in for quite a fight with the likely inevitable chance of their crops becoming contaminated if there are neighboring Monsanto crops added to the massive legal power and influence of Monsanto. I liked Olivia’s idea of allowing “Generic” GMOs like medicines. But then again, should food be classified similar to medication?
Its crazy to live in a world where greed runs corporations as the people who work to feed the world seem to suffer. These corporations will eventually try to own all aspects of the food industry. Its hard to understand how a company can own a seed that happens to blow onto your farm. However, I believe that the Supreme Court was right, but it is sad to see the local farmers suffer from the high prices of the seeds. I am interested to see how well this ruling sticks in the future.
Biotechnology meeting the agricultural sector has brought about an ethical battle that this country was not ready for. Yes, it is ethically wrong to sue farmers strictly trying to farm organically and yes it is wrong for these huge corporations to have to give up their land because they cannot pay the lawsuit they lost to Monsanto, but how can this be stopped? To paraphrase what you stated above, professor, wind is incredibly hard to control especially when the three big crops pollinate from wind moving, and it is only nature working when it pollinates other crops by wind. However, does this not deter companies from creating a new product if there is no protection from the product being copied without some sort of compensation? I am not for Monsanto being able to sue anyone just because their product naturally pollinates, but am simply playing devil’s advocate with the ethical issue at hand. This is most likely a problem that will not be solved for decades to come unless either Monsanto backs off, the United States Supreme Court helps smaller farmers, or there is a way to for farmers to protect their farm from this natural pollination.
I do support modifying crops for higher yields and survival in harsher environments, but when it is taken to the extreme Monsanto has taken it, it is so easy to see as evil. At the same time I think the supreme court made the right ruling according to our laws. I think that its the laws that have to change. The very idea of being able to have a patent on seeds and life is terrible and wrong, and if we had better patent laws, a case like this would never have made it to the supreme court.
I’ve heard you speak of this multiple times during class about the unfairness of having a patent on something that can be controlled by WIND! (and other natural means) If there was a way to prevent the pollen from spreading to crops owned by farmers that do not want it, I would side with Monsanto. But unfortunately I don’t think that will ever happen. Its different if farmers are intentionally stealing the pollen for their crops and benefiting from it, but I feel that Monsanto will never be appreciated or liked by organic farmers until organic farms are protected from legal disputes over accidents.
I agree with the supreme court in it’s protection on Monsanto’s patent in the first case, but when wind blows Monsanto’s modified seeds onto other farms it is unreasonable. The farmers from other farms, no matter what they produce, have a right for their work to be protected from invaders, especially when it is damaging to their daily welfare. I believe the supreme court will make the correct decision in the case that is coming about.
What a wonderfully written post! I agree with your assessment on the Monsanto v. Bowman case based on the patent law and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. This court case certainly does stir up questions concerning the ethics of having ownership over natural systems and processes. I also agree that our founding fathers were not even close to considering events that led to this court case. I am eager to see what the final outcome between Monsanto and the OSGATA will dictate for farmers in the future. I would also concur that GM crops have helped to meet the demand of our growing global population; however products containing GM crops most certainly should be labeled in the supermarkets. The consumer does have the right to know what they are buying and labeling of GM products should be mandatory. If consumers can become better informed about GM products this might help to save the family farm – non GMO – organic boat from sinking. The United States we should follow suit with what the Europeans have been able to accomplish with labeling of GMOs. Yet again another excellent post professor!
This this is almost enough to make you laugh about what it takes to keep the world going round these day. I wouldn’t be a surprised if one day we found a way to summon the wind to the stand during these cases! I think it is very exciting that we are finding ways to feed our World’s growing population, but on the other hand, I don’t think we know enough about the sustainability of these GMOs. As the production of the GMOs are growing, the treat the established family sustainable farms is too. I can’t imagine how hard it will be for these sustainable farms to compete with the commercial GMO farms. So I can’t blame the soy bean farmer for his action but I can see how it was viewed as illegal. The thought of losing our sustainable farms while the sustainability of the GMOs are still in question is very scary in my opinion. This blog post was a great read on the icebreaker of the legal issues of GMOs.
What amazes me is the idea of man owning what the wind carries with it and where it goes. Nature will do and go where it wants. This only makes it more pertinent the issues of ownership between farmers and the government. Monsanto just has such a monopoly on the situation and it would be nice for the consumer to win on this one.
I’m have not looked into the patent system and am a little naive to how the system works. The whole idea of owning a patent of an organism seems a little weird to me.
I understand that a-lot of hard work and science has went into making these dominant crops that grow faster, bigger, and as a whole better. If I spent multi-million dollars on developing a crop, you bet your ass I would try to protect it. If I was starving in a third world country, I would want these seeds for a better life. If I was concerned about GMOs I would want them abolished off the face of the earth.
Based on the information given I have to assume that the patent system is currently in the ‘developer of the seeds’ favor. Which in a nation built on capitalism, is how it should be. That being said I am also aware that, in the game Monopoly, there is only one winner.
As bad as it sounds, I don’t think that they will be stopped. While GMO companies may win a few and lose a few battles, overall the structure of capitalism wont stop this trend. I think that our whole system in general needs to be changed before a small ethical portion like GMO companies will be stopped.
This is a very interesting topic. It has a very deep moral issue along with the technical issues. I believe that technically Monsanto is doing something very cool, but morally unjust. I think that Monsanto’s ability to improve the crops that we grow on our farms. I hope that one day Monsanto would be properly regulated or develop a moral consciousness. I believe that the former is more likely to happen.
Wow. This is an incredibly well-written and thought-invoking piece. Many individuals are aware of the monopoly Monsanto truly is, however their heartless practice of suing without thinking of the consequences gives them more power and inevitably reduces the choice individuals have on where they out their money into. The typical local farmer is already struggling to make ends meet as it is, but when the wind blows, the rain falls, or other acts if nature happen, the farmer is faced with lawsuits and owing more money than they can handle. Yes it’s true that the patent law states that using and selling these products without permission from the patent-owned company is illegal and grounds for compensation, but how the hell are they supposed to compensate for something they have absolutely no control over? In fact, Monsanto should have to give payment to the farmers for their seeds interfering with another’s farming practices. Pack up and leave Monsanto if you don’t want your seeds blowing onto another individual’s farms.
I agree that this is only the tip of the iceberg. No way in hell would little farmer Joe and Lucy win against these corporate U-Boats in the court of law. There’s too much money and political ties at stake. It’s very key that we keep referencing the Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, but there is a point we need to draw the line. I think it’s clear when a corporation is doing the deed for profit rather than progress. I’m very interested in the next possible outcomes and which direction the industry will be steered towards!
Very interesting read professor. I agree with the court that intentionally trying to capture the seed violates the spirit of the patent law, but much more concerning is the threat to non-Monsanto farmers. I think is is important to clearly define the relationship between discovery and ownership. All scientific discoveries are centered around understanding a particular natural phenomenon or process. Profitibality comes from designing a specific system or mechanism to manipulate the natural process in a way that can be controlled. This is common place for harder and more predicitable sciences such as physics and chemistry. A great example is electricity. Utilities use technology that generates electricity and they distribute and sell the electricity to end users. In this case tapping into the grid intentionally and taking electricity for free is obviously both ethically and leagly wrong. But the utility is also responsible for controling the electricity and ensuring it only goes to customers who want the electricity. What Monsanto has done is take this model and applied it to biology which is a softer and less predicatble science. They have manipulated genetics and created a vaiable and profitable product but they have designed no control mechanism doe it. Granted controling living organisms is much harder than controlling electricity but its something I believe Monsanto should have worked out before marketing their seeds. Effectively they have skipped this key step and passed the responsibility of controling their products to people who are NOT their customers, essentially their competition. This is a creative and highly effective business model, but I believe it is ethically wrong and violates the spirit of the patent law.
Brandon, thanks for your excellent analogy using electricity. Good job!
Monsanto is without a doubt a very powerful organization. The idea of creating drought resistant, pest resistant, more productive crops, etc. shows great potential in helping increase food production around the world; however, it seems that greed is beginning to overshadow the benefits. Being able to own a gene is somewhat scary because it is hard to control where that gene will end up in a natural setting. In this case the farmer was definitely wrong to straight up steal the seeds; but, what is to keep small farmers from being sued if the seeds from Monsanto are accidentally blown onto their farms? Many small farmers have taken pride in naturally selecting the best seeds to grow their crops, and if Monsanto’s seeds show up then it can ruin their hard work with natural selection that they have been striving to achieve for generations. Small farms do not have the money to take on a powerful corporation like Monsanto in court, and usually end up just signing a contract with Monsanto instead of wasting valuable income fighting them in court. This is sad because it decreases crop biodiversity within today’s home owned small farms and they are forced to succumb to Monsanto’s will. Another scary aspect is that if someone consumes a crop that is owned by a patent from Monsanto and that gene enters your body, then wouldn’t they technically own you? Kind of crazy to think about. Bio engineering of DNA is sketchy in the first place because we are not sure if it is actually safe. Even if Monsanto is striving to solve world hunger, I don’t believe anyone should be able to patent/own a gene and it should be left for nature to decide what will happen. The patent laws definitely need to be reevaluated and amended.
Nice post! I think Monsanto has way too much power, and I think consumers need to be educated about what is in their food and how it was grown. They need to demand legislation for labeling GMOs and maybe ban its use altogether. I don’t think we can trust anyone in congress to bring up the issue, but if the people demand it, they will have to listen.
This court case is one that causes a lot of controversy. Since the farmer was in the wrong for stealing the seeds, and for Monsanto monopolizing the industry. Also it raises the question against Monsanto, can you patent life? Altering the genes of the plant and stating claim to that gene is jumping on the line of unethical.
It’s a shame that Bowman was a thief that not only stole Monsanto’s genetic material but also the support of organic farming and Non GMO enthusiasts. I just hope this doesn’t hinder any progress in removing patents on genetic material. I also believe that congress should declare that rather the seeds that are the result of involuntary cross pollination be the property of the patent owner, it should be considered a rape crime against Monsanto. This rape crime won’t carry the same weight as it would for a person, but it would put the responsibility on Monsanto to fence off their own seeds from penetrating other people’s property. Otherwise Monsanto would be held liable for the crime and should provide compensation.