Monday, July 28, 2014

Wednesday Roundup: Justices Like Monsanto

02/20/2013

Richard Oswald Yesterday was Tractor Day in Rock Port, Missouri, when Future Farmers of America kids drive the family tractor down Main Street. This year's parade took place in ten degree weather, so everybody was bundled up. The driver out front wore a pink cap, so we're figuring women were leading the way this Tractor Day.

Farmer Vernon Bowman didn't have such a great day Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bowman is being sued by Monsanto, who says the Indiana farmer infringed on its patent rights. Bowman had gone down to the local grain elevator, bought soybeans and then planted them. He said this was a cheaper way to get a double-crop planting. In his first planting, Bowman bought biotech seed from Monsanto.

Bowman figured the seed bought at the elevator would be Roundup Ready and it largely was. Bowman said Monsanto had exhausted its patent rights after the initial planting. Monsanto said Bowman didn't have the right to reproduce its patented genetics without paying the company.

And the Justices appeared largely to agree with Monsanto — especially the Democratics.

Those who attended the hearing quote Justices who were clearly skeptical of Bowman's case. (See Chris Clayton's story here; Reuters here.)    

Chief Justice Roberts said that if anyone could reproduce a seed, "Why in the world would anybody spend money to improve a seed?"

Justice Stephen Breyer told Bowman there is a law that "says you cannot make copies of a patented invention and that's the law you violated."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted the exhaustion doctrine "never permits you to make another item."

The issue in this case is what happens to patent rights if a product can be replicated. Lower courts have sided with Monsanto. A decision is expected by June. Go on to the next page to see a discussion of this case on the PBS NewsHour Tuesday evening.

 

Watch Supreme Court on Monsanto Tests Limitations of Patent Law on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

 

Biotech Crops Spread — Don't feel too bad about Monsanto spending too much money on attorneys. Reuters reports that biotech seed companies are doing a good job of selling into developing countries. 

For the first time, developing countries accounted for more than half of the acreage seeded with biotech crops. 

A new report finds that a record 170.3 million hectares of biotech crops were grown around the world last year, up 10.3 million hectares from 2011. The number of farmers using biotech crops rose 600,000 in 2011 to 17.3 million in '12.

Grasslands Disappearing — Higher commodity prices have led farmers to convert more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, rates researchers say are “comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia.” In some states, such as Iowa and South Dakota, 5 percent of pasture land is being turned into cropland each year. 

Grasslands hold carbon better than cropland. Wildlife like it better, too. But corn and beans pay the bills.

No Mail, But… — The Postal Service will market its own brand of clothing, brand name "Rain Heat & Snow." 

Men's apparel will come first, and will include jackets, headgear, shoes and, of course, it will all allow "integration of modern technology devices such as iPods, according to agency spokesman Roy Betts."

We wonder if you can wear it on Saturdays?

Congressional Approval — A grand total of 15 percent of Americans in February approve of the way Congress is handling business. 

Ah, That Clean Rural Air — Oil and gas drilling and a coal-fired power plant are producing all of the air pollution in the northeast corner of Utah, around Vernal. Levels of ozone are reaching dangerous levels.