The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case you may be aware of “Monsanto versus Indiana farmer Vernon Brown”. The story behind the case is that Farmer Bowman purchased Monsanto seeds for many years for his main soybean crop. He also saved seeds from previous crops and bought unlabeled “bin run” soybeans from a local elevator to plant. Some of those soybeans either saved or from the local elevator turned out to be Roundup-Ready genetically engineered seeds.
Monsanto sued farmer Brown charging infringement of its patent. Bowman contended that the patent should only apply to the first generation of seeds and farmers should have the time honored right to save and plants seeds.
On May 16th in a unanimous decision, the Court held that a soybean farmer cannot reproduce Agri-giant Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seeds through planting and harvesting without the company’s permission. It isn’t really a surprise that farmer Brown lost his case.
It is estimated that 90% of the US soybean crop and 70% of the US corn crop is from genetically modified seed. If one company owns the majority of the seeds available that time honored tradition of saving and replanting seeds is surely lost.
The 2013 Farm Bill being marked up on in the Senate next week offers a glimmer of hope. Senator Jon Tester is introducing a Farm Bill amendment next week that aims to reinvigorate classical plant breeding and public cultivar development. The bill contends that establishing classical plant breeding (or “conventional,” field-based selection) must be a priority.
This research is critical to the competitiveness and resiliency of U.S. agriculture. Farmers constantly face changing climate, insect, weed, and disease pressures that vary by region, and they lament reduced options in regionally appropriate seed cultivars held in the public domain. Crops must continuously be adapted to meet these changes, and the most productive approach is to have seeds adapted to the same environment as their intended use through classical plant breeding.
Make a quick call to your Senator and urge them to support this bill. Follow the seed alliance http://blog.seedalliance.org for further messaging. Take action before the Senate meets next week. Let’s Save our Seeds.