Iowa farmers won't feel SCOTUS Monsanto decision impact - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa farmers won't feel SCOTUS Monsanto decision impact

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A U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Monday is sparking questions about the future of America's food supply. A U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Monday is sparking questions about the future of America's food supply.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down Monday is sparking questions about the future of America's food supply.

In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled farmers can't use major seed company Monsanto's patented genetically-modified soybeans to create new seeds -- at least, not without paying the corporation a fee.

When any major seed company, such as Monsanto or Pioneer, develops a new way to genetically modify a seed to make it resistant to herbicides, for example, that seed is patented and therefore entitled to intellectual property rights, judges have ruled.

Generally, farmers buying seeds from a major company sign a contract saying they won't save their crop's seeds at the end of the season -- meaning they'd have to buy new seeds the next year.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case, an Indiana soybean farmer found what he thought was a loophole, and used seeds bought from a grain elevator to try and grow a second crop. He hoped some of those seeds would be from plants grown from Monsanto seeds.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that such use violates Monsanto's intellectual property rights.

However, the Iowa Soybean Association says the decision itself applies specifically to what the Indiana farmer was doing and won't have a real impact on Iowa soybean farmers.

"The Iowa growers, particularly the soybean growers as well as the corn growers, both follow best agronomic practice, which is to use a certified seed, which is known with genetic material," said Iowa State University Extension weed specialist and agronomy professor Mike Owen.

However, Dave Murphy, the executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots organization that promotes sustainable food systems, said the Supreme Court's decision failed to address a larger question.

"Should corporations be able to patent life?" Murphy said. "Question is, should Monsanto -- just by inserting a gene in it -- have the right to patent it and bar farmers from saving those seeds?"

Food Democracy Now! also works to alert consumers to products containing genetically-modified crops.

"I think this ruling allows further consolidation of our food supply under corporate ownership, and I think that's the real root of this problem," Murphy said.

The American Soybean Association said the Supreme Court's ruling protects Monsanto's intellectual property and therefore gives them incentive to continue improving soybeans and other seeds.

Owen expressed concerns that genetically-modified seeds designed specifically to be resistant to herbicides may eventually lead to making weeds more herbicide-resistant, too.

He and Murphy said the vast majority of Iowa soybean producers use genetically-modified seeds.

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