Seeding Innovation

Last month SCOTUS heard oral arguments for Bowman v. Monsanto:

The question before the Court is surprisingly simple: when a farmer buys a Roundup Ready soybean seed, is it free to do what it wishes with the seeds harvested from the Roundup Ready plantings?  The farmer (Bowman) says yes – arguing that Monsanto’s rights in the seed and its progeny are “exhausted” by its sale of the first seed.  Monsanto, by contrast, argues that because it never made or sold the harvested seeds, those seeds cannot be replanted without violating the patent.

Ronald Bailey worries about the consequences were SCOTUS to rule against Monsanto:

If the Supreme Court does “eviscerate” seed patent protections, agricultural biotech companies could turn to genetic engineering solutions similar to the Technology Protection System (TPS), an approach developed in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the seed company Delta & Pine Land Company (now owned by Monsanto). TPS consists of an array of three genes that causes a second generation of seeds to be sterile so that farmers would gain nothing by saving them. Bowman himself suggested in 2009 to the Federal District Court that Monsanto could protect itself against people like him by deploying TPS.