(MintPress) – A recent report by independent agricultural organizations shows that Monsanto has sued hundreds of small U.S. farmers for $23 million in an effort to protect seed patents. As one of the largest multinational corporations producing genetically modified (GMO) seeds, Monsanto has worked to solidify its hold on the agricultural seed market in the U.S. through patents on GMO crops.
One Indiana soybean farmer named Vernon Hugh Bowman could change that trend. Bowman has launched a challenge to the Monsanto lawsuit claiming that he is wrongfully being sued for patent infringement.
Bowman bought soybeans from another farmer’s grain elevator with no restrictions on their use. Because the seeds are genetically modified using a Monsanto patent, Bowman is now facing a major lawsuit for using the seeds without permission from Monsanto.
The Indiana farmer has challenged the lawsuit against him claiming that he has a right to use seeds purchased through a third party as he chooses. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case later this month in what could be a landmark ruling on intellectual property.
Advocacy groups including The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save Our Seeds are supporting Bowman in his search for justice.
His case is one of many outlined in the recent CFS report Seed Giants vs US Farmers. CFS said it had tracked numerous lawsuits that Monsanto had brought against farmers. In recent years, the multinational agricultural corporation reportedly filed 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states.
For farmers, it has become increasingly difficult to purchase seeds that are not owned by Monsanto or other corporations producing GMO products. In the US some 93 percent of soybeans and 86 percent of corn crops come from such seeds.
Organizations supporting small farmers could be doing more to fight the growing monopolization and commercialization of farming in the U.S. The National Grange, an advocacy organization representing just under 200,000 independent farmers nationwide has opposed efforts to label GMO including the failed 2012 ballot initiative in California giving voters the option to label GMO foods sold at supermarkets.