WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a soybean farmer fighting Monsanto over rules governing use of its genetically modified seeds.
The court has agreed to take up the case of Vernon Bowman, 74 and from Indiana. The spat has been underway since 2008.
Monsanto makes soybean seeds that are genetically tweaked so that the plants survive when a Monsanto herbicide is vaporized to kill weeds.
The bone of contention is this: farmers who buy the Monsanto seeds cannot store excess supply to use after harvesting a first crop. This forces them to keep buying new seeds every season.
Monsanto noticed that Bowman had a larger harvest than would be expected from the amount of seeds he bought, and sued. A lower court sided with the company.
In his appeal Bowman insists he always honored his contract with Monsanto, buying new seeds every year and never saving ones from his first-crop harvest.
But starting in 1999, so as to save money he started buying cheaper seeds from a local grain producer and planted them to have second-crop soybeans.
He realized these seeds had developed resistance to the Monsanto herbicide, and repeated the operation from 2000 to 2007.
"Unlike his first crop, he saved the seed harvested from his second crop for replanting additional second crops in later years," the appeal reads.
In accordance with his agreement with Monsanto, "Mr. Bowman never saved seeds from his first-crop harvest," it added.
The Supreme Court has not set a date for hearing arguments, although a verdict is expected in 2013.
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