In Defense Of IP

When the U.S. Supreme Court case of Monsanto V. Bowman garnered a brief firestorm of chatter both inside and outside of agriculture last month, I had pretty much put it aside. Other than amusement at someone in this day and age taking such a hackneyed approach to farming, I didn’t get the significance right away.

But after I got some ribbing about it from no less than the CEO of this company, I dug a little deeper … and got my back up a little.

By now I’m sure you’re all availed of the details, and perhaps a decision has already been handed down as I write this. But a few things really frosted me about this whole case.

  1. I understand there are clear political ramifications for everything an organization says about its rank and file, but the silence from grower groups about Hugh Bowman’s absolutely appalling farming practices was deafening. Here we are as an industry, trying to convince the general public that modern production agriculture is on the top of its game; that we’re making decisions that will raise yields and deliver on the demand for food for a growing global population. And what I would term as a “bad actor” is outed, most folks whistle and walk on by. If we’re trying to show the country and the world that we’re setting a high bar for American agriculture, then I think we have to be willing to disassociate ourselves with shoddy practices by saying plainly and loudly, “that’s not how farmers should be farming.”
  2. I also understand that there are still negative feelings about Monsanto as a company. It has been an aggressive marketer and researcher, and its tactics have turned off many in the grower and retailer ranks. Like any company, it has had wild successes and at other times fallen short. Monsanto has also fiercely defended its patents and made everyone pay for the benefits of its licensed technology, which levels the playing field and allows the company to keep the research going full steam.

Monsanto has developed biotechnology driven systems that have exponentially driven down the cost of herbicide and insecticide programs, and saved growers untold billions of dollars.

Yet again, most growers, grower groups and ag media outlets were content to keep quiet, even though a ruling in favor of Bowman could topple a research and development pipeline that has done nothing but simplify farming and reduce yield risk against environmental stress. And a lot more is on the way, from Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow/Mycogen, BayerDuPont and other ag companies working on biotech.

In this case, Monsanto stood as a proxy for all the other seed companies, and as it turned out, manufacturers from a wide spectrum of industries who are carefully watching this patent case to see if the Supreme Court will stand up for intellectual property (IP).

We at CropLife Magazine absolutely stand in defense of IP as critical to progress in agriculture. To provide growers with top-notch service, we need the best products and tools at our disposal. And we hope the high court will make it clear that patented technology must be protected. Meeting the needs of our growing global population depends on it.

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