A food safety group in the USA has called for patents filed by companies such as Monsanto for their genetically modified organisms to be limited.
In the case to be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court, soybean farmer Vernon Bowman is challenging the wide-ranging patents filed by Monsanto which severely restrict the distribution of seeds to famers. The outcome of the case could have far-reaching impacts as Monsanto and other biotech seed developers attempt to expand their dominance of the agricultural seed market.
Seeds sold by Monsanto and other seed developers require growers to use seeds only for a single crop, and prohibits the farmers from saving and using (or selling) second generation seeds, meaning that farmers have to buy new seeds each season.
In 2007 Monsanto sued Bowman for infringing its seed patents when Monsanto discovered that Bowman was using second generation seeds he had bought as part of a mix of commodity seeds from another provider – a practice famers have used for decades to keep costs down.
Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers in recent years for unauthorised use of their seeds as part of mixed lots purchased from other providers.
The decision of the court will have serious implications on the ability of farmer to produce financially sustainable crops. If they are unable to use second generation seeds and are forced to buy expensive seeds from companies such as Monsanto, farming will only be possible by large national farming organisations.
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