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GM Crop Case Nears Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has asked the Obama administration to weigh in on a petition concerning Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds.

By | April 6, 2012

SoybeansWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, H. ZELL

In 2011, the Federal Circuit Court again upheld the ruling that Monsanto's patents for its genetically modified seeds can be used to stop farmers from saving and replanting the GM seeds. Monsanto had sued Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman for purchasing and replanting commodity soybeans from his local grain supplier, which were mostly Roundup Ready seeds, seeds genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides.

Bowman has now petitioned the Supreme Court with the argument that his use of the seeds is covered by patent law’s “exhaustion doctrine”—which holds that a patent holder’s rights in a particular product are “exhausted” when the product is sold to an end user, Wired Science reported. Bowman wasn’t required to sign a licensing agreement before buying commodity seeds, so he argues that he was free to plant them.

This week, upon the vote of at least four Justices, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the petition, requesting that the Solicitor General, the official in charge of representing the Obama administration, file briefs expressing the views of the United States, Patently-O reported. While the case remains to be heard—and the Court can still opt not to do so—a study of 30,000 petitions found that those for which the Court requests a response from the Solicitor General are four times more likely to be granted.

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