The biotechnology industry won a big case in the U.S. Supreme Court today with a unanimous judgment in favor of Monsanto Co. in a lawsuit brought by an Indiana farmer who disputed Monsanto’s ability to protect the patents on its genetically modified seeds. The court rejected the claims of the farmer, Vernon Bowman, that the company’s rights were “exhausted” by the first sale of soybean seeds.
“Bowman planted Monsanto’s patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the full court. “Patent exhaustion provides no haven for that conduct.”
The industry’s trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), applauded the ruling.
“The Supreme Court’s commitment to uphold valid intellectual property rights in this case creates business certainty that will benefit all of biotechnology - as well as the patients, farmers, and consumers who benefit from biotechnology’s help in healing, feeding and fueling the world,” BIO President Jim Greenwood said.
The text of Justice Kagan’s opinion is available here: http://1.usa.gov/16ursLm
Whole Foods got some attention today with an announcement that it will require the makers of food products sold in its stores to state on the label if a product contains an ingredient produced through agricultural biotechnology - a “GMO.” It is giving manufacturers five years, until 2018, to provide the labels.
But the facts don’t support Whole Foods’ new policy. It’s just commercial positioning rather than a scientifically-based initiative.
Leading scientific authorities, including the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academies of Science, and the World Health Organization, agree that foods derived from biotechnology are as safe and nutritious as food manufactured from organic and conventional ingredients.
All methods of agricultural production — biotech, conventional and organic — use inputs to fertilize plants and control weeds and insects. Voluntary labeling of foods that is consistent with the production method used is already available.
Mandatory labeling, however, applies only to information regarding nutritional content or health-related characteristics, such as allergenicity or toxicity, which are not issues that have ever been associated with biotech ingredients.
Labeling of “GMO’s” is thus not necessary for health and safety. It’s just part of the differentiation strategy in a particular segment of the retail industry.
Photo courtesy of The Globe and Mail
In writing about the pro-biotech speech by British environmental activist Mark Lynas, during which he publicly apologized for years of anti-biotech activities, Canadian commentator Margaret Wente says the tremendous stir it caused may mark a turning of the tide of public opinion.
“People are hungry to hear from a new generation of environmental moderates who value science and pragmatism over ideology and absolutes,” Wente wrote in her column in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper. “They want to hear from those like Mr. Lynas, who think technology can be a force for good, and want to find practical approaches to environmental problems.”
Lynas himself sees a shift in opinion, Ms. Wente wrote, quoting him from an interview.
“Something has moved in the terms of this debate,” she quoted Lynas as saying. “It’s like the cresting of a wave. It’s as if everyone has simultaneously realized that the anti-GM movement doesn’t actually have anything backing it up,” he said. READ MORE »
Crop biotechnology is desperately needed to meet problems of drought, saline soils, loss of farmland, rural poverty, and population growth, according to Neal Carter, an orchardist and bioresource engineer who has developed a non-browning apple.
“It’s a huge challenge, and biotech crops are leading the way in allowing us to address it,” Carter said in a talk at a TEDx conference. Carter’s company is bringing out the Arctic Apple, which doesn’t turn brown when sliced.
Carter took on the claims by biotech opponents that the technology is unsafe, pointing out that the food safety of genetically engineered crops has been affirmed by the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, among other distinguished groups.
Biotechnology reduces food waste, makes better use of water, increases yields, improves farmer income, and improves people’s lives, Carter said.
A video of his presentation is available here.
Biotechnology is critical to the goal of producing more food for a growing world population, according to leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries comprising 40 percent of the world’s population.
“Sustainable agricultural growth is a priority for all our economies,” the leaders said in a declaration at the end of a summit in Vladivostok, Russia. “In pursuing this goal we will take concrete actions to raise productivity in agriculture by boosting investment and adopting innovative technologies in agriculture, including agricultural biotechnology.”
The leaders said that the world faces growing challenges to regional and global food security.
“Given the growing world population, reducing the number of undernourished people by raising food production, improving the individuals’ or households’ economic access to food and improving the efficiency and openness of food markets will require more concerted effort by and cooperation among all APEC economies,” they wrote. APEC promotes free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Read more.