The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously this morning that an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto's patents on genetically modified "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds. The case, Bowman v. Monsanto, hinged on whether the farmer, Vernon Bowman, ought to pay Monsanto for seeds that he purchased from a grain elevator and planted for a late-season second harvest.
Image via Soybeans ain't free, folks.
Those seeds, though marketed at the grain elevator as "commodity seeds" for human or animal consumption, ended up producing for Bowman the same sort of herbicide-resistant soybean crop as the Monsanto seeds that he had paid the St. Louis-based company to use in his first planting of the season. In total, Bowman harvested eight late-season crops with this technique.
(As a rule, Monsanto licenses its patented seeds to farmers for use in one and only one year. The following year, farmers cannot replant the previous year's seeds but must again license new seeds from Monsanto.)
In her opinion, Justice Elena Kagan told Bowman, in essence, "Nice try, but no."