Monsanto Sneaks Into Budget Bill, Faces Farmer in Supreme Court

Monsanto is so sneaky that its lobbyists have managed to slip the "Monsanto Protection Act,"also known as the Monsanto Rider (Sec. 735), into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill, which could be voted on today.

In an unprecedented move, this makes GMO companies exempt from our judicial court system. Even if a court orders Monsanto to stop planting seeds until an environmental review is carried out, this bill overrules that. The USDA would be required to give Monsanto a temporary permit to keep selling, cultivating and planting those seeds while the review is conducted.

So, even the federal courts wouldn’t be able to stop Monsanto (or other GMO firms) from planting unproven, potentially dangerous crops if this bill passes.

Fortunately, Senator Tester (D-MT) has introduced an amendment (#74), co-sponsored by Senators Boxer, Gillibrand and Leahy, to strike the rider from the bill.

Email a letter to your Senators here.

Monsanto Currently in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case between Monsanto and Indiana soy farmer, Hugh Bowman, Bowman v. Monsanto Co.

The crux of the case hinges on whether Monsanto’s patents on GMO seeds ever expire. Can patents on seeds – or other things that can self-replicate – extend beyond the first generation of the products?"

Bowman, who has been planting Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO soy for years, was brought to court by the company – and told to pay $84,000 – because, although he bought GMOs for his main crop, he bought unmarked, cheaper soy from a local grain operator for a late-season planting and re-planted them in following years (soybeans "are" seeds).

Monsanto accuses the farmer of infringing on its seed patents. Farmers have to buy new seeds every year, they can’t save or reuse them after a crop is grown.

Bowman is appealing the charge in the Supreme Court (Justice Clarence Thomas is former attorney for Monsanto).


"For years now, farmers have been forced to pay for ever-more expensive seeds that don’t perform as advertised and are increasingly the only market-viable seeds they can find (90% of soy planted in the US uses GMO seed). When they look to other seed sources, they are dogged by patent infringement lawsuits.

Taking a stand against Monsanto’s harassment of farmers, Bowman continues to assert his right to save seed and rejects the corporate giant’s claims that he violated patent law," explains Pesticide Action Network.

So far, the court seems to be siding with Monsanto. Chief Justice John Roberts asked, "why in the world would anybody" invest time and money on seeds if it was so easy to evade patent protection. The Obama Administration also filed a brief backing Monsanto (the USDA is filled with former Monsanto people).

Just 10 corporations control about two-thirds of all commercial seed for major crops (three corporations control 53%), dangerously concentrating the world’s seed supplies in private hands, because of intellectural property rules, argues the Center for Food Safety.

Not only does this drive up prices, but it dangerously limits the variety of seeds planted, they say.

After seeds are purchased and planted once, the farmer should be able to plant them after that without worrying about patent infringement, argues Bowman’s pro-bono lawyer, Mark Walters, from the firm of Frommer Lawrence and Haug. 

In 2008, the Supreme Court decided there are limits to how far a patent-holder can go in forcing those further down a supply chain from continuing to license their patents. The limit is known as "patent exhaustion," and Monsanto is demanding it be released from this limitation.

That’s exactly what Walters is arguing. Under the principle of "patent exhaustion," second-hand seeds are lawfully owned by the purchaser, not by the original patent holder.

"If you buy something that’s covered by a patent, you own it, outright. "You’re allowed to put it on Craigslist and sell it, you’re allowed to use it for your ‘ordinary pursuits of life.’ Imagine how commerce would work if patents owners could come out of nowhere and surprise purchasers and tell them, ‘Oh, you need to pay me a royalty, because I own a patent on this thing that you just bought,’" Walters explained to National Public Radio.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed, saying, "The exhaustion doctrine permits you to use the good that you buy, it never permits you to make another item from that item you bought."

Justice Antonin Scalia concurred: "He can plant and harvest and eat or sell. He just can’t plant, harvest, and then replant."

Bowman’s attorney responded, "We disagree that the activity of basic farming could be considered making the invention."

Global Seed Monopoly

The report"Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers," shows how the "current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement."

Monsanto has sued 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states for seed patent infringement.

From 1995-2011, the cost of the most commonly planted GMO seeds has risen dramatically. The cost to plant one acre of soybeans is up 325%; cotton is up 516% and corn is up 259%.

If Monsanto wins this case, the ability of corporations "to own products of life" will be further ensconced in judicial precedent, further solidifying the ability of large agro-chemical firms to dictate the lives and practices of the world’s farmers.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on this case by the end of June. 

Learn more about this case:

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Comments on “Monsanto Sneaks Into Budget Bill, Faces Farmer in Supreme Court”

  1. Wecount

    Its time to put this to an end. Stop killing us and our future generations that will not come if its up to you!

  2. michele barnowski

    Why is america’s government so stupid? Look at other countries, they ban and label GMO crops – we enable gigantic coporations to decide on our health and welfare! Wake up America – He who rules the food rules the world.

  3. Chelsea

    Good job U.S. government! Soon you’ll push us to finally be aware of our food and grow our own because we don’t trust you!

  4. Reality Check

    Using Bowman’s logic, if a poet writes an eBook, you could buy one copy of that eBook and as long as you bear the cost to make additional copies, you could then sell those copies without compensating the originator. GM Seeds are the dominating seed because their customers (Farmers) want to buy it. Less fertilizer, less water, more production per acre. Farmers want that, that’s why they buy it in overwhelming numbers. You can complain all you want but Monsanto will win this decision by an 8-1 or 9-0 vote. Bowman’s case isn’t the one to defend.

  5. Maurice Hepicot

    Actually, you take a cut in production with Round-Up Ready soy beans (about 5-10%) Whatever you save in fertilizer you are going to spend on herbicide, and I am unaware of decreased irrigation requirements. Also note, the case seems to refer to the SECOND crop of the year, in which he bought non-Monsanto seeds and saved them. Round Up Ready uses “terminator” genes to make the second generation sterile. Monsanto must be suing for any cross pollination that occurred. This seems to be their strategy: pollute everything with “their” pollen, then sue the farmer whose crops get infected.

  6. Dumdum

    Where can I find the rider? All I can find is one that doesn’t have Sec.735 in it, text as introduced on March 15. I want to read the bill because sometimes (rarely) these things are wrong. @ Maurice Hepicot and Reality Check I am pretty sure that they take MORE water, not less. Indian cotton farmers have been killing themselves in droves because they aren’t drought tolerant and produce less, and can’t make enough money. Monsatan CLAIMS they are, but I can always claim that I can lift 500lbs with my pinky, and maybe prove it with an elaborate pulley system (rigged statistics.)

  7. iowa boy

    Maurice understanding is wrong, GMO seeds mean you don’t need herbicide. This is one of the huge advantages of the seed, it can be planted on last years corn ground using no-till farming ( meaning no need for plowing, less field work, etc). The claim that the cost for seed has gone up 325% is off set in various ways, less fuel (pollution from engine emissions, oil, grease, machinery maintenance), time spent in the field, potentially better yields.
    As for the water – get real, whatever rain we get is what the plant has. Soybeans are not irrigated in this part of the country.

  8. Rona Fried

    Iowa Boy, GMO’s supposedly require less herbicides, but in practice farmers have increased their use of pesticides and are moving to more toxic ones because of the superweeds GMOs are causing. Search for Monsanto on our site and you will find articles on this.


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