Seattle Attorney Mark Walters is still buzzing after presenting his case at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday.
Walters, a patent attorney with the firm Frommer Lawrence & Haug LLP, represented a 75-year-old Indiana farmer who is being sued by agri-giant Monsanto for planting descendents of their genetically modified seeds (GMO) in his fields.
According to Walters, his client Vernon Hugh Bowman used so called 'trash seeds' to keep his field active after his main soy bean harvest. Monsanto said that 'trash seed' contained some of the company's GMO seed known as 'Roundup Ready' seed.
Monsanto sued Bowman and won in two lower court cases. Tuesday The Supreme Court Justices heard Walter's arguments that Bowman has the right to use seed that reproduced from Monsanto seed because it's affordable and available.
Rancher Maurice Robinette of the Lazy R Ranch near Spokane is watching this case on the other side other side of the country.
Robinette, a cattle rancher, also has a beef with Monsanto. He markets his cattle as GMO free and feeds them only GMO-free alfalfa grown on his ranch. But he is concerned that if a neighbor decides to use Monsanto's GMO 'Roundup Ready' seeds, they could blow into his field. Robinette said if that happens, he could lose his GMO-free status.
We contacted Monsanto about those concerns and a spokesman told there has never been a case when a farmer or rancher lost 'Organic' or 'GMO Free' status because of Monsanto seeds invading their fields. The entire Monsanto statement is printed below.
Walters said the Supreme Court Justices peppered him with hard questions but they seemed to understand the plight of the small farmer who cannot afford top priced seed for all off-season crops.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the case by June.
Statement from Monsanto Spokesman Thomas Helscher:
"I am not aware that any producer has ever lost organic certification as a result of the inadvertent presence of seed or pollen from genetically modified crops, alfalfa or otherwise. We believe farmers should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice – whether that be organic, conventional or the improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems contribute to meeting the needs of consumers. Since the advent of biotech crops over 15 years ago, both biotech and organic crop production have flourished. We have no reason to think that will not continue to be the case."