“Supreme Court Appears to Defend Patent on Soybean” – NYTimes, 19 February 2013

Last week, the case Bowman v. Monsanto Company reached the Supreme Court. Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman was a Monsanto customer who, instead of buying seeds from Monsanto for his next harvest season, opted for a riskier situation. He bought seeds from another vendor, hoping that it would contain some Roundup Ready seeds. Bowman planted the seeds, doused them in Roundup — some of his harvest held on, and he was able to save some seeds for the next year.

The case was really about whether patent rights to seeds — and other things that replicate, reproduce or grow — continue past the first generation. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto, a move which extended not only to Monsanto’s pervasive agriculture technology, but also other modern agriculture, vaccines, cell lines, software, etc.

Farmers who buy seeds from Monsanto usually have to sign a contract that disallows them from saving seeds from the current harvest year for the following year. Farmers must purchase new seeds for every harvest season. In his argument, Bowman cited a principle called patent exhaustion, which he said lets him use products however he likes if he acquires them legally. However, lower courts ruled that Bowman’s actions were in violation of patent infringement.

A federal judge in Indiana fined Bowman over $84,000 to be paid to Monsanto, and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the decision. According to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “The exhaustion doctrine permits you to use the goods that you buy. It never permits you to make another item from that item you bought.”

The Supreme Court ruling in Monsanto’s opinion correctly defends patent rights, which allow companies in diverse industries, such as agriculture, vaccines, cell lines and software to take financial and intellectual risks. These rewards partly justify companies in investing millions of dollars over a long period of time in research and development, with an uncertain outcome and years to reap the benefits and recoup costs, if ever. If Monsanto did not have a practice of needing its buyers to sign such contracts, then there would be no point in the company, or any similar company, patenting its technology.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 1, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

Copyright 2013   All rights Reserved by Fluid Management Systems, Inc.

www.fluidmanagementsystem.com     subodh@fluidmanagementsystem.com

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“Genetically Modified Crops Have Led To Pesticide Increase, Study Finds” – HuffPost, 1 October 2012

Genetically modified crop (GMC) technologies have forced farmers to use more hazardous pesticides to tackle weeds and insects. GMCs, which are meant to improve plant growth and help farmers resist pests that harm plants, are actually working in reverse: GMC technologies have spurred the development of “superweeds” and “hard-to-kill” insects.

According to a study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook, from 1996 (when pesticides were first introduced) to 2011, GMC use increased pesticide use by 404 million pounds. Also from 1996-2011, herbicide use increased by 527 million pounds and insecticide use increased by 123 million pounds.

In 1996, Monsanto introduced the first GMCs, herbicide-tolerant crops called “Roundup Ready” soybeans, crops that are engineered to endure Monsanto’s herbicide. Monsanto soon used the same technology for corn and cotton.

As of recent, dozens of Roundup-resistant weed species have developed, driving farmers to use more pesticides and chemicals to control these ‘super-weeds’. In the same vein, genetically modified corn and cotton, which are supposed to be poisonous for particular insects, has prompted the growth of ‘hard-to-kill’ insects.

GMCs largely control the US agricultural landscape: an estimated one of every two acres of harvested land has GMCs; and almost 95% of soybean and cotton acres, and over 85% of corn acres, are genetically modified.

The use of GMCs has the same pluses and minuses as the use of drugs for raising food  animals such as swines and bovines. We need to use antibiotics and antibacterials to protect animal health so that we can provide concentrated meat to feed 7 billion people. Excess use of these medications may lead to more resistance in humans.

Judging from the conflicting viewpoints of consumers who want safer and cheaper food, and regulators who want to protect public health, what can farmers do to satisfy consumers and regulators, while also guarding against rising costs? Perhaps there is a solution in better communication between crop and food scientists, farmers, GMC, and pesticide manufacturers and regulators.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 24, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

Copyright 2013   All rights Reserved by Fluid Management Systems, Inc.

www.fluidmanagementsystem.com     subodh@fluidmanagementsystem.com

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“Across Corn Belt, Farmland Prices Keep Soaring” — New York Times, 22 October 2012

This year, the US experienced its worst drought in over 50 years, destroying corn and soybean crops across the Corn Belt. Surprisingly, regardless of the drought, farmers are continuing to invest more in planting. Taking advantage of low interest rates, farmers are snatching up land, rather than investing in stocks and bonds.

Even in our tough economy, farmland prices – with the exception of the recession in 2008 – have doubled since 2005. Banks are worried that the same thing that jumpstarted the recession will occur with farmland to create a “farmland bubble”. But such a bubble is far from farmers’ worries; farmers are more concerned about growing their businesses so they can produce more crops and increase their income. Rather than buying stocks or leaving their money in the bank, many farmers feel that investing money in farmland is more practical.

The demand for farmland is high, which has caused some banks to worry that farmers will make poor choices. Such was the case in the 1970s and 80s, when many farmers were piling up more debt to acquire more land, and using their farms as collateral. The debt inevitably left many farms in ruin and led to sinking land values.

The drought has caused a surge in soybean and corn prices, probably a main factor in the farmland boom. The Department of Agriculture has reported that the likely net farm income for 2012 is $122 billion, a 4% rise from the $117 billion in 2011, the record net income level since 1973.

Farmers have less debt then 30 years ago. Low interest rates also make borrowing less expensive, which can be helpful for farmers; but farmers might be in trouble if interest rates rise and crop prices fall.

The question to answer: since farmers have continued to invest in land, will we see a reemergence of plummeting land values? And what happens if, in 2013, farmers have to suffer through another drought?

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 12, 2012

Fluid Management Systems

Copyright 2012   All rights Reserved by Fluid Management Systems, Inc.

www.fluidmanagementsystem.com     subodh@fluidmanagementsystem.com

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