FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Monsanto vs. Vernon Bowman’s Farm

In 1860, pro-slavery apologist Edmund Ruffin forcefully argued in support of a proposition: “[T]he greater profits of slaves as property, compared to other investments for industrial operations.”

I’ve no doubt that IG Farben functionaries, touring their shiny new Buna Works complex in 1942 occupied Poland, quelled any twinges of conscience with an identical observation respecting the use of Jewish slave labor from nearby Auschwitz.

Has humanity morally evolved since the US Civil War? Since the Holocaust? If oral argument before the  Supreme Court of the United States in Bowman v. Monsanto is any indicator, well, no.

“Without the ability to limit reproduction of soybeans containing this patented trait [resistance to a particular pesticide],” says IG Farb … er, Monsanto … attorney Seth P. Waxman, “Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention, and never would have produced what is, by now, the most popular agricultural technology in America …”

Chief Justice Edmund Ruf … er, John G. Roberts … seemingly agrees: “Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?”

Like Ruffin and IG Farben, Roberts and Monsanto argue the issue without reference to its moral dimension.

I willingly stipulate to the truth of Monsanto’s claim that its profits would be greatly enhanced were the state to grant it ownership and control of Vernon Bowman’s farm, of Vernon Bowman’s crops, and of Vernon Bowman himself (and for that matter of every farm and farmer on God’s green earth). That’s exactly what Monsanto is asking the state to do, on the basis of precisely that argument.

Keep one thing firmly in focus here: Vernon Bowman had no contractual obligation whatsoever to Monsanto with respect to the seeds he purchased, planted, and saved the progeny of in this case. He’d previously bought other seeds under contracts forbidding such use, and he’d honored those contracts, but these particular seeds were not so encumbered.

If those past contracts cloud the issue for you, keep in mind that this case reprises the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2004 award of “license fees” to Monsanto at the expense of Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, for reproducing seed bearing “their” patented gene — seed which had come into his possession via natural cross-farm contamination (wind and pollen happen, folks).

Monsanto’s entire case against Vernon Bowman — as with Percy Schmeiser — is that their profits will be negatively affected if they’e not empowered to dictate what Vernon Bowman does on his own land and with his own stuff. The relief they’re requesting is that the state should therefore so empower them.

This is not a case of a “bad” or “over-broad” or “improperly applied” patent. By its very nature, “intellectual property” always represents an assertion on the part of one person of ownership title to the minds, bodies and property of others.

Whether it’s Monsanto’s genetic “patent” claim, or the “copyright” demand of a novelist that once he’s strung some words together in a certain order nobody else may do likewise without coughing up, or Ron Paul’s plea to the United Nations to seize an Internet domain name he wants, “intellectual property” is, simply put, an attempt to turn the world into one big antebellum plantation, with the state as indispensable overseer.

Fortunately, most variants of the fiction of “intellectual property” are quickly falling apart under the pressure of advanced copying and sharing technologies, and the state as we know it is on its last legs too. Neither will be missed.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omaorosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail