Bowman v. Monsanto

Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court will hear case 11-796, Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company. The question they are considering is as follows:

Patent exhaustion delimits rights of patent holders by eliminating the right to control or prohibit use of the invention after an authorized sale. In this case, the Federal Circuit refused to find exhaustion where a farmer used seeds purchased in an authorized sale for their natural and foreseeable purpose-namely, for planting. The question presented is:

Whether the Federal Circuit erred by (1) refusing to find patent exhaustion in patented seeds even after an authorized sale and by (2) creating an exception to the doctrine of patent exhaustion for self-replicating technologies?

The result of this case, no matter how it is decided, will have effects far beyond the seed industry. Future technologies, such as self-replicating nano-bots and gene therapy as well as old technologies such as refurbished electronics could be affected.

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School has prepared a solid summary of the case, including links to the amicus briefs: Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company. You’ll want to read this summary before checking out various articles in the popular media, as the issues here are complex.

Unfortunately, many articles such as Time’s Is It A Crime to Plant A Seed? that seems to have chosen snark or sensationalism over careful reporting. Commenter “jmiklovic” seems to get it, though (emphasis added):

Patent law is in place so that you cannot buy a product, process, or technology and duplicate it for your own gain. It really does make sense. If I buy a cast iron part that you have invested a lot of time into engineering, then make my own sand cast from your part and duplicate repeatedly for my own personal use, you have every right to come back at me. Of course this is a different in that the seed replicates itself.

Grain bins by wpe9fon via Flickr.

Grain bins by wpe9fon via Flickr.

This commenter refers to the problem that there are few self-replicating items that are patented or contain patents. Another problem, in my humble-non-legal-trained opinion, is that there is an error in the question itself. The “natural and foreseeable purpose” of commodity soybean grain is for feed, processing into oil and textured vegetable protein, etc – the purpose is to enter the food supply, not to be planted. When a farmer buys seed for planting (genetically engineered or not), that seed usually has a contract associated with it that says that the farmer can not replant the harvested grain. Bowman argues that the original contract does not apply if he first sells the grain to his local grain bin then buys grain back from the bin to plant. This might be true in a legal sense, but it certainly violates the spirit of the contract, in my own humble-non-legal-trained opinion. I wonder if/how this nuanced difference between seed as seed and seed as grain will be brought up in the case. For discussion of seed contracts, see Brian Scott’s post: I Occupy Our Food Supply Everyday.

Update: The Atlantic has a reasonably good article on the case, lots of background.

Anastasia is a Board Member of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes! Learn more about Anastasia at about.me. Disclaimer: Anastasia's words are her own and views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of her employer(s). She is not paid to blog or conduct any social media activities. Any mention of a specific company or product does not indicate endorsement of that company or product.

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68 comments on “Bowman v. Monsanto
  1. MaryM says:

    I noticed today in the NPR story this very cagey distinction which I hadn’t heard before:

    Starting in 1999, he bought some ordinary soybeans from a small grain elevator where local farmers drop off their harvest. “They made sure they didn’t sell it as seed. Their ticket said, ‘Outbound grain,” says Bowman.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/18/171896311/farmers-fight-with-monsanto-reaches-the-supreme-court

    I think that shows a deliberate misuse and awareness of that issue.

    • Thanks for linking to that NPR article, I meant to include that one but couldn’t decide how to fit it in. You are totally right. The grain bins are pretty clear about what the purpose of the grain is, and farmers as far as I know are also clear on that – so why does the Court say the “purpose” is for seed? Maybe the definitions of the word “purpose” are getting mixed up here?

      After rereading that paragraph, it seems that they are referring to the purpose of the seed in the original sale from the seed company to the farmer, which is for planting. The question then is if the progeny of those plants are also covered by the patent or if the patent is exhausted, I think.

      • pdiff says:

        Does intent apply here like it has in other cases? In other words, he like other GM cases, intentionally sprayed the planted crop with glyphosate to ensure they were RR. He wanted the technology, not the seed. He knew the technology was likely to be present.

        • I think intent matters at least somewhat when it comes to patents and seeds. For example, in the Percy Schmeiser case the big question was whether they could prove he intentionally used the trait vs accidental presence of the trait. That was in Canada but their patents are similar as far as I know.

    • I hadn’t seen this article, nor had I heard that the grain elevator sold it to him labeled as “Outbound grain.” I find this important because I have read the claims made by Bowman’s case and the Center for Food Safety, and they claim that the natural purpose of the seeds is for replanting, and that the patents are getting in the way of that. But if he bought it as grain then he was taking something labeled as grain and using it as seed. It seems like a silly distinction because grains are seeds, however, legal systems are built upon such distinctions. Bowman didn’t buy “seed” for planting, he bought “grain” for processing and changed its foreseeable use to planting as “seeds,” thus undermining his argument that replanting was a natural step.

      As far as intentional spraying goes, the bottom of pag 42 from Bowman’s brief answers that question. He says both that he sprayed glyphosate on the soybean plants, but yet did not himself assemble the parts that made up the eventual patented seeds that grew on the plants. This passage seems to contradict itself. He is trying to claim that the plant itself did all that was necessary to produce more patented seeds, however, he states that certain actions of his took place and were necessary for this to happen.

      “Your honor, I didn’t infringe the computer company’s patents, I just found the plans on a computer I bought, and put some assembly machines in place to make it possible that the machines could make copies of the computer, and then switched them on. I didn’t “make” the new computers – the assembly machines I linked up made the computers.”

      It surprises me when farmers and organizations that supposedly understand farming make it seem like the plant just does everything on its own – almost as if the farmer is an unnecessary part of the farming process. I don’t see how actively, purposefully planting, cultivating, growing, and harvesting seeds does not make the farmer a necessary part of this process.

  2. Elinor says:

    I also heard the NPR article and thought it did a decent job laying out the issue, in contrast to most mainstream news sources. I agree that the story and the interview with Mr. Bowman made it seem as if he was very aware that he was violating the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of the law.

  3. Jon Entine says:

    Hi everyone. I have a background piece on the case with some additional details and legal context posted on the Genetic Literacy Project (www.GeneticLiteracyProject.org): http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/02/18/bowman-vs-monsanto-genetic-innovation-in-the-crosshairs/
    Jon Entine

  4. Adam Merberg says:

    “This might be true in a legal sense, but it certainly violates the spirit of the contract, in my own humble-non-legal-trained opinion.”

    Hmm. So do you think it would be perfectly fine if Bowman had never bought seed from Monsanto and got all of his seed from the grain elevator? That way, he would never have signed the contract and would have no obligation to uphold the contract, in letter or in spirit.

    Brian Scott’s post mentions that the contract requires him to buy seed only from an authorized agent, but this strikes me as the wrong way to protect seed patents, precisely because it opens up the loophole I just mentioned. Would it instead be legal to stipulate that the crop can only be resold with a contract that prohibits planting?

    • That’s a really good point. I think the grain bins are not allowed to sell grain for seed, so I’d bet the bin knew. But if Bowman didn’t tell the bin what he was going to use the seed for, then then bin couldn’t have stopped him. Seems like another contract from bin to buyer would solve this.

      • Adam Merberg says:

        Based on this the first day ( http://1.usa.gov/VtSg80 ), I think the contract is probably mostly irrelevant for this case. I think the bit from Justice Breyer that Mary quotes below, is key: “What [the law] prohibits is making a copy of the patented invention, and that is what he did.”

        It sounds to me like planting the seed from the grain elevator is illegal because it violates patent law, not because of the contract that Bowman signed. The contract is important because it gives the farmers a license to make copies of the seeds, but only once. Not signing a contract doesn’t exempt somebody from the law.

        • A friend pointed out to me in another forum that Monsanto could probably achieve the same thing as patent law by making seed sale contracts more complicated:

          * Not allowed to replant after growing
          * Must sell only to elevators or others who themselves agree not to replant
          * Must sell only to those who themselves agree not to sell the crop for seed, etc.

          He notes that this is effectively the same as far as restricting undesired re-use. Of course, if someone steals some soy and then breeds it, Monsanto would have basically no recourse without patent law…

          • Richard R says:

            This was in the NY Times article covering the concept of using contract law:

            ‘(Bowman’s) lawyer, Mark P. Walters, said that companies could rely on contracts rather than patent law to protect their inventions, an answer that did not seem to satisfy several of the justices.

            “It seems to me that that answer is peculiarly insufficient in this kind of a case,” Justice Elena Kagan said, “because all that has to happen is that one seed escapes the web of these contracts, and that seed, because it can self-replicate in the way that it can, essentially makes all the contracts worthless.” ‘

  5. MaryM says:

    Wow, that was fast: “Justices hostile to farmer’s argument against Monsanto” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/19/us-usa-court-patent-idUSBRE91I1AT20130219?feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=56943

    But I liked this article better, because it had a justice actually referencing “tofu turkey”: http://www.agweb.com/article/high_court_justices_signal_support_for_monsanto_on_patents/?smartid=&spMailingID=41020585&spUserID=NDY1NzQ5MDIzMDkS1&spJobID=178288785&spReportId=MTc4Mjg4Nzg1S0

    Justice Stephen Breyer said federal patent law lets a purchaser use a product for a variety of purposes, such as making “tofu turkey” from soybeans.

    “What it prohibits is making a copy of the patented invention, and that is what he did,” Breyer told Bowman’s lawyer.

    • Richard R says:

      The NY Times article gives a larger quote:

      Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that there were lots of things Mr. Bowman could do with the seeds he had bought from the grain elevator.

      “You can feed it to animals, you can feed it to your family, make tofu turkeys,” he said.

      “But I’ll give you two that you can’t do,” he went on. “One, you can’t pick up those seeds that you’ve just bought and throw them in a child’s face. You can’t do that because there’s a law that says you can’t do it. Now, there’s another law that says you cannot make copies of a patented invention.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/business/justices-signal-a-monsanto-edge-in-patent-case.html

  6. Rita says:

    Court will likely uphold the lower court decision that Bowman was trying to reproduce an exact technology as it was in the first generation, and so patent exhaustion doesn’t apply b/c of his intent for exact replication. But, they could also say that the exhaustion doctrine on patents does apply to utility patents. This may seem contradictory but is not. So as long as a party is not trying to reproduce exact technology they are free to use the second generation for other purposes (potentially including research) – giving more leeway for how patent products are used. Bowman may lose, but patent exhaustion doctrine will be upheld as applying to utility patents, including those on genetics.

  7. MaryM says:

    FYI: in a discussion related to the purchase from the grain elevator, edgeben tells me this:
    https://twitter.com/edgeben/status/304052373217746945

    “RT @edgeben: Bowman’s lawyer wrong on limits PVPA (as amended in ’94) puts on buying seed from elevators. Not allowed. http://t.co/3GR8h2l4 #GMO”

    Here’s the relevant section: http://screencast.com/t/nVEmdoUU69gT

  8. edgeben says:

    It is obvious from Bowman’s machinations that he was trying to circumvent patent law. He probably probably did this the way Karo outlined in order to get the elevator to sell it to him in the first place. Because the elevator operator should know it was a violation to sell it to him for seeding purposes. I wonder if Monsanto brought any action against the elevator?

    As per my conversation with MaryM, it was mentioned by the respondents that even if the seed had not had patent protection, it would likely have been in violation of the PVP Act. The original PVP Act of 1970 had a farmer’s “saved seed” exemption, which allowed a farmer to save seed of a Protected variety for replanting on his own farm or to sell to his ‘neighbors’. The problem was that the language was ambiguous, and did not specify what was considered a neighbor. Some seedsmen took this as a license to buy a variety and then mass produce it for sale to anyone (their neighbors). The case of Asgrow vs Winterboer decided this in favor of Asgrow in 1995, and the PVP Act was amended in 1994 to tighten this loophole. It also made it a violation for an elevator or ‘seed conditioner’ to clean and sell seed of a Protected variety without disclosing it as such. This was meant to prevent the widespread practice by seed conditioners/dealers of saying to a farmer, I can sell you this commercial bag of seed for $X, or I can sell you this ‘brown bag’ seed of that variety for a discounted price.

    PVP gives protection to the inventor, but there rights are limited, and enforcement is a problem. A patent is harder to obtain, but therefore gives more protection and grants the originator more control of how the invention can be used.

    • Thank you! I was wondering how plant variety protection worked for non-patented seeds. There are obviously a lot of them that still had some protection since there didn’t seem to be many patent cases.

  9. Brian says:

    I just did a quick post concerning the oral arguments this week. What Bowman did doesn’t even make sense to me from a purely agronomic standpoint.

    http://thefarmerslife.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/quick-thoughts-on-vernon-hugh-bowman-v-monsanto-company/

  10. edgeben says:

    It sounds like he contrived to obtain what he knew would be predominantly RR seed, without paying retail price for it. I don’t know how planting bin-run seed of unknown maturity and disease characteristics could be any less risky than full price seed for late planted beans. He could easily have obtained conventional seed of a known variety for a lower price than commercial RR seed. Sounds like a litigious guy looking for a cheap way to obtain RR seed. I find his claim of Monsanto forcing farmers to take all the risk of growing a crop interesting. I would be interested to know if he has ever threatened lawsuits against seed companies for crop failures. I’ve run in to many folks like that over the years. They make a minimal effort to raise a crop and then ‘farm’ the insurance programs or bring lawsuits against anyone who provided them with an input (seed dealers, fertilizer companies, fungicide manufacturers, etc.), whoever has deep pockets.

  11. Brian says:

    edgeben, that’s one reason rented ground prices have gone so high. A farmer like you mention can sign a 3-4 year lease and not put a dime of fertility back in the soil. He’ll probably get a good crop the first year or two and then justify the remaining high payments because he’s farming for the insurance check.

    Then the next farmer comes along and is expected to pay a premium price for depleted soil. And with many landlords being generations removed from farming now it can be difficult to explain why you think the price needs to come down to a more reasonable level.

    • Pdiff says:

      Are there programs or people that suggest leasing prices based on yield potential or nutrient profiles?

      • Brian says:

        Yield mostly. And corn yield at that.

        • Ewan R says:

          From what I have heard folk who lease land are rather reluctant to have the land owners know what sort of yields they’re getting (if they’re good anyway) as if it is higher than expected the landlord may hike up the rent, or, if someone external finds out they may wind up getting outbid. (which shows that perhaps landlords feign ignorance when yields are dowm – they know fine well that if yields are high you get to charge accordingly)

          • Brian says:

            That could be the case for some people. I send printouts of my yield maps out with my rent checks to our landlords. I want them to know what’s going on. Some arrangements have a bonus plan in place where the payment goes up if X yield is reached. I have 250 rented acres I can’t grow popcorn on because the landlords don’t want specialty crops.

  12. What do you guys think this would mean for scientific publishing?

    If there are other industries lining up behind Monsanto for this case, it seems to me that the scientific publishing industry could make a similar argument aimed at those who blog about scientific literature or even give colleagues scientific literature.

  13. Mlema says:

    I feel sad that farmers can’t just buy seeds anymore and instead find themselves criminals for doing what farmers have done for millenia. I know it’s important to obey the law and legal contracts. Farmers are trapped into some of their GMO planting practices by federal financial policies that make it difficult to farm without GMO usage, and some of them are apparently foolish enough to try to escape that trap by saving seed. I’m sure many here will thing I’m a “naturalistic” fool. It’s not that I don’t support GM technology so much as I really feel for any farmer in this situation, since he’s outspent by millions of dollars. I just don’t like seeing our independent farmers getting pushed around this way. If Monsanto’s seeds and pesticides can’t stand on their own profits from sales the way traditional seeds have, maybe their creation/production isn’t really a good financial investment for our country?

  14. Mlema says:

    Hi Anastasia, I feel it’s inaccurate to say “little has changed for farmers” when, prior to Monsanto seeds, we didn’t see farmers being sued for saving seeds. The argument from Monsanto is that they shouldn’t be expected to spend millions of dollars to develop a seed that’s going to be sold only once. I think the common sense solution to the problem for farmers would be to stop buying Monsanto seeds. With their increasing need for more pesticides, and their appearing failure to increase long-term yield, why have the added expense?

    • Pdiff says:

      Your common sense solution only makes sense with your assumptions. For the overwhelming number of farmers (GMO or not), there is no problem to begin with. A very small percentage of farmers have been sued, and all of those have been shown to have deliberately appropriated the patented traits illegally. “Increasing need for pesticides” is inaccurate to wrong. GM products can help eliminate pesticides altogether or replace them with much less toxic materials. Likewise, the assumption of “failure to increase long-term yield” is faulty. In fact, recent studies have shown GM can substantially reduce production risk, which is a very good reason for having the added expense.

      Perhaps you should direct these questions to the farmers and ranchers on Twitter #AgChat or someone like Brian who posted above. I’ve found them very willing to talk about these issues and explain their perspectives.

    • “prior to Monsanto seeds, we didn’t see farmers being sued for saving seeds”

      Quick clarification: “Monsanto seeds” isn’t really accurate. Monsanto sells non- biotech seed and non-Monsanto companies sell seed with biotech traits.

      I’m not sure how owners of seed intellectual property protected their rights prior to biotech traits. There has to be some way, otherwise what’s the point of having IP? One difference is that it’s easier to detect a biotech trait. Hopefully someone with more experience in this area will come by and help us out. Surely you don’t think it’s acceptable for someone to put money, time, and effort into developing a product then not being able to profit from their invention?

      Regarding farmers being sued, I haven’t seen any examples of wrongful suits (meaning a farmer who wasn’t intentionally breaking the law). I’d be surprised if there weren’t any – but I find it strange that no farmers who were wrongfully sued have come forward, especially considering how much attention is given to the topic. There was even a big lawsuit that claimed organic farmers were being sued for accidental pollination – and it got dismissed because they couldn’t provide evidence that such suits had happened! All the big examples (Schmeiser, Parr, and now Bowman) are of intentional patent law breaking.

      “the common sense solution to the problem for farmers would be to stop buying Monsanto seeds”

      Some farmers have stopped! For example, in some areas, the Bt trait has been so effective at wiping out the insects that it is meant to control that the farmers there have stopped buying seed with the Bt trait. I have seen people complain they can’t find non-traited seed but every time I look I am able to find quite a few non-GM varieties.

      “With their increasing need for more pesticides”

      This depends greatly on how you measure things. If you look at total pounds of pesticide, there has been an increase – but of course not all pesticides are created equal. If we look at the EIQ (environmental impact quotient) there has been an overall reduction in harm to the environment due to biotech traits.

      “their appearing failure to increase long-term yield”

      The traits on the market (mostly Bt aka insect resistant and glyphosate tolerance, plus a little virus resistance) are not intended to increase yields. Instead, they protect against loss of yields to pests. At this, biotech has been pretty effective. If you look closely at the well known report “Failure to Yield” you’ll see that they conclude that glyphosate tolerance had no increase or decrease but Bt significantly increased yields.

      “why have the added expense?”

      Good question. I don’t mean to be crass, but we have two options here. Either the traits work and have at least some benefits, or farmers are stupid and wasting their money, right?

      • Rick says:

        ” Surely you don’t think it’s acceptable for someone to put money, time, and effort into developing a product then not being able to profit from their invention?”

        You certainly ruined any cred with that one.

        • This comment would be more useful with some elaboration of what you mean. Do you think people should invest time, money, and effort into inventing things, then give them away for free? Surely that is a laudable thing to do, but should people be forced to give inventions away?

      • edgeben says:

        Anastasia is correct. The practice of bringing suit against farmers did not originate with Monsanto. It just was not as big a news item when it wasn’t occurring with the background of “big bad Monsanto.” Also, the potential loss of profit increased significantly with the advent of biotech traits. And, as you mentioned, Anastasia, it is much easier to track the biotech traits, but that is partly due to our improved DNA sequencing technology. Before we could do DNA matches, it was difficult to prove what variety a farmer was growing. We had to rely on catching the offender red-handed, or use something like protein profiles or isozyme matching to prove that a variety was stolen. So biotech technology itself has made proving these cases much more feasible. In the past, seed companies have been reluctant to bring suit against farmers when it was hard to provide conclusive evidence: the chance of losing was higher, and because of the bad publicity, like that Monsanto gets every time they try to protect their intellectual property.

  15. Mlema says:

    hi Pdiff, I’m basing my opinion on the research analysis done by scientists at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/eight-ways-monsanto-fails.html
    I understand the motivation to defend Monsanto when it comes from those who profit, or even just earn their living from the biotech industry. But for farmers, there are more better, non-Monsanto means of reducing the cost/benefit ratio. Monsanto’s business model and engineered seeds take the problems of industrial farming and make them worse for farmers.

    I’m confident that Monsanto will win its case, especially with a pro-corporate Supreme Court and the white house’s support of the lower court’s decisions. But that doesn’t mean that Monsanto’s seeds, patents and contracts are a good idea for the environment or the economy. Monsanto has a bad track record on false advertising, and a lot of people who are otherwise very reasonably skeptical seem to set aside their critical thinking skills when it comes to Monsanto GM crops, preferring to believe Monsanto’s website rhetoric.

    But this blog has a decidedly pro-Monsanto timbre, and pro-Monsanto people need a place to talk to each other just like anti-Monsanto people do. So I will let anyone else have the last word. And thank you so much for the chance to voice my opinion. I appreciate it.

    • Bill Price says:

      Well, Mlema, I hope you don’t feel you need to go away. I am not directly defending Monsanto for any reason, real or imagined. I, as a non active farmer, have to take the word of real farmers that they know what they are doing and that they understand their situation better than I do. If there better “non-Monsanto” means of doing things, I trust they would use them (Hint: They do. That’s why I suggest you talk with them). As a statistician, I look at data and what it can tell me. And the overwhelming message I see is not anti-GMO alarmist.

      I hope you continue to explore the problem and move beyond the UCS dogma. They have a bad track record as well showing bias and faulty analysis regarding GM technology. A little research into the list of points they give on your reference WEB page above will easily show that. I hope you will do so.

  16. Brian says:

    I hope Mlema doesn’t go away either. I am an active farmer, and there are a lot more like me who want to have these conversations. I’m definitely in favor of biotech, and Anastasia hit it on the head with something I’ve said many times. The current biotech traits increase average yields by protecting crops in stressful environments. Top end yield potential is still determined by breeding. We need different varieties of crops for varying field conditions, so there are no magic bullets.

    What am I most excited about on my farm right now? It’s not biotechnology although I am a big fan. Making my equipment more accurate and efficient and using cover crops are what really float my boat right now.

    I can always be found at
    thefarmerslife.wordpress.com
    http://www.facebook.com/thefarmerslife
    http://www.twitter.com/therfarmerslife

  17. Jon Entine says:

    I’ve been following this blog string re: Mlema’s comments and the issue of GMO patents. Using links provided by Anastasia in a post a few years ago on this issue, I tried to summarize some of the key points. Hope this is helpful to those who follow this blog:

    The “BioPiracy” myth at the heart of the Monsanto case
    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/02/25/the-biopiracy-myth-at-the-heart-of-the-monsanto-case/

  18. Mlema says:

    well, I find I must reply to Anastasia’s comment to me.

    “…but we have two options here. Either the traits work and have at least some benefits, or farmers are stupid and wasting their money, right?”

    Yes Anastasia, as you supposed: that is crass. And it’s a false dichotomy straight from Monsanto’s PR playbook. How about this dichotomy instead: the farmers are hard-working and intelligent, and Monsanto is a snake in the grass. US farmers have always availed themselves of the newest technological developments. Historically, seed companies have been partners in farming. How did they defend their IP? By ensuring its continual value to the farmer, not by policing farms and writing contracts that effectively indenture not only farmers but entire farming communities.

    It’s certain that the transgenic crops have offered benefits. But the benefits are temporary, and the cost? Well, first off, the cost of the seeds themselves has continued to escalate now that 90% of soy, and >85% of corn and cotton is Monsanto. Next, the exponentially increasing use of glycosophate, along with the addition of more toxic pesticides to combat growing resistance. Glycosophate is safe? It causes birth defects:
    http://ddococktailhour.com/files/0/8/7/4/3/244299-234780/Carrasco_research_paper.pdf

    and since pesticides associated to genetically modified foods have been found in pregnant women and their fetuses:
    http://somloquesembrem.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/arisleblanc2011.pdf
    thorough toxicology studies in these situations remain to be done.
    also,
    In the southeast, resistant weeds are proving difficult to manage. They’ve in some cases taken over non-transgenic crop fields. Monsanto’s advice? incorporate older, more toxic pesticides, like 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange (another “biotech tool” brought to us courtesy of Monsanto. An interesting history of Monsanto:)
    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

    RoundUp is toxic to aquatic life, and increasing volumes mean more shows up in our water systems:
    http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33138#Ecotoxicity

    In visiting “scientific skeptical” blogs, there’s a decided defense of transgenic technology, regardless of application and understanding. The mythology goes something like this: we can’t feed the world without transgenic seeds, and people who oppose Monsanto’s transgenic seeds are following a naturalistic fallacy.
    There even is a belief that GMOs are highly regulated and tested for safety.

    Again, I concede these pesticide problems are associated with our current agricultural system at large – something that can’t change quickly. But with the advent of Monsanto’s transgenic seeds and IP contracts, we see a monopolization and exacerbation of the problems.
    Monsanto was investigated for anti-trust violations in 2010.
    http://www.beginningfarmers.org/wall-street-journal-article-u-s-opens-inquiry-into-monsanto-antitrust-enforcement/
    the fact that the investigation was dropped without explanation says more about biotech’s power to hold sway in DC than it does about it’s innocence in market domination.

    “Quick clarification: “Monsanto seeds” isn’t really accurate. Monsanto sells non- biotech seed and non-Monsanto companies sell seed with biotech traits.”

    Vocabulary is something that’s been used to confuse the issue of Monsanto’s transgenic seeds. The term “biotech traits” is too non-specific. “Transgenic” is the term scientists prefer to differentiate between GM technologies like: recombinant DNA, microinjection, electro- and chemical-poration, and bioballistics, on the one hand,
    and GM technologies like: marker-assisted selection, which is considered equivalent to traditional breeding on the other. It’s MAS that’s given us drought-resistant and more nutritious crops. Transgenic crops have never offered these benefits. (barring Golden Rice, the usefulness of which remains to be seen in populations where malnourishment is the problem that needs addressing, not the lack of beta-carotene in rice)

    Biotech industry activists promote the idea that transgenic plants are really not different from traditionally bred or naturally evolved plants, or even other GM plants. The reality is that this sort of cross-species breeding hasn’t existed before. All living organisms have evolved in finely-tuned and incomprehensibly complicated cooperation. We simply don’t know the far-reaching consequences of introducing these new organisms into the environment and our food supply. The safety tests are voluntary, are not comprehensive, and independent research has been stymied.
    Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html
    My interest is protecting the diversity and integrety of the inter-related species that enable successful agriculture. Part of the problem with the Monsanto paradigm is it’s lack of interdisciplinary science. Agriculture doesn’t happen in a lab. Believe it or not, we need indigenous unadulterated weed genomes to maintain the vigor of our hybridized food crops. The idea that you can “wipe out” bugs in some permanent fashion is naive and ecologically unsound. Plant and insect pests must be managed.

    Anastasia:
    “I’m not sure how owners of seed intellectual property protected their rights prior to biotech traits. There has to be some way, otherwise what’s the point of having IP? One difference is that it’s easier to detect a biotech trait. …Surely you don’t think it’s acceptable for someone to put money, time, and effort into developing a product then not being able to profit from their invention?”

    I surely do not! But neither do i feel it’s acceptable for corporations to indenture farmers with IP “contracts”. You seem to suggest that farmers have been violating patents prior to trangenic seeds because the creators weren’t able to effectively police the farms? Before transgenic seeds, seeds were products marketed and sold based on their strength in meeting agricultural needs. Farmers bought new seeds because hybrid strength was exhausted, or because breeders had created better product. It’s the technology of production that Monsanto should be able to patent as IP. Not the product of that technology. Your comparison to a frying pan doesn’t work as follows: the design and production of the frying pan (seed) is the IP, the food grown (grown seed) is the product. Farmers are not re-engineering seeds by copying Monsanto’s protocol, they’re simply growing crops and harvesting seed as they’ve always done. Saying that farmers can’t use the harvested seed is like saying they have to buy a new frying pan every time they want to cook.

    “Regarding farmers being sued, I haven’t seen any examples of wrongful suits… I find it strange that no farmers who were wrongfully sued have come forward, especially considering how much attention is given to the topic.”

    this paper talks about a number of these issues.
    http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf
    Monsanto spends $10 million a year and has 75 staffers for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting farmers. For me, there’s no surprise to the result. The more sustainably we can do this, the greater the ongoing yield and ecological soundness of farming. I support farmers first and foremost.

    I support the suggestions offered by the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/strengthen-healthy-farm-policy/the-2012-farm-bill.html

    • I appreciate your response, but before you do a link dump, how about searching this site a little first? For example, we have discussed glyphosate toxicity here, the study on blood from pregnant women here for example.

      You seem to be blaming many ills of the world on genetic engineering, and you certainly seem to count yourself as an authority on these issues regardless of whether your opinion is based on solid ground, so I won’t bother to respond to the rest. When I see a link dump, it says “listen to me” not “I’d like to discuss”. It’s a shame too, because there’s a lot of interesting things to talk about.

      • OrchidGrowinMan says:

        Bravo Anastasia!

        And to Miema:

        I have heard the Naturalistic Fallacy many many times, and let me set you straight on just one count by pointing-out a fundamental error.

        Our cultivated crops most certainly have NOT “evolved in finely-tuned and incomprehensibly complicated cooperation.” When we separated our chosen subjects from the natural world by selection, breeding and cultivation, natural evolution was pretty much taken out of the equation. There never was a Garden of Eden where wheat, maize, broccoli, oranges and all the rest grew wild and free. These species have been irrevocably modified from their ancestors, in their genetics, in their habits and properties, by human action, much faster and in different directions than they would have gone without us, and they cannot survive without us. No, we don’t know everything about every beneficial or detrimental interaction between our crops and other living and nonliving influences, but we know some, and when an interaction becomes interesting to us, we research it, whether it is a disease or a nutrient deficiency, or a useful trait we want to encourage. The evolution of “cooperation” is an interesting and controversial topic among people who know a lot about the science of Evolution, but it is not a universal occurrence. There is no guiding force, no “direction” of Evolution, and if there were, that Force, that Direction, would not be striving towards some utopia of speceisist egalitarianism; Evolution is much more about blind competition and numerical reproductive success.

        There are a lot of other things you have written that I wish you would study up on, many of which have been exhaustively addressed (many repeatedly) on this site.

        Oh, and another peeve: there is apparently some sort of “Talking Point,” brought-up (should I say “parroted”?) repeatedly whenever “Golden Rice” or the other projects trying to address Vitamin A Deficiency are under discussion: No, beta carotene is not the same as retinol, retinal or retinoic acid. It is waaay better. Unlike the active forms of Vitamin A, it is not toxic, even in ridiculously high doses (and I’ve tried!)and it is efficiently stored in the body, ready for use, so it has a longer half-life than vitamin A itself (and it can be twice as potent: one molecule of bc can be cleaved into two retinals). Once it is in your body, it is converted very quickly into the active form as-needed, and there are no particular special nutrients or dietary supplements required, though poor diet and poor health are detrimental (particularly Vitamin E deficiency and intestinal problems). I have seen the criticism written that people might “turn orange from carotene, but they will still be vitamin A deficient” from eating Golden Rice, which is also part of the talking-point, and is just plain ignorant. Don’t go there.

        Oh, and please look-up “heterosis” and learn why farmers of so many crops do not save and plant seeds. The information has been readily available for more than fifty years.

        Thanks,

        OGM

    • Ewan R says:

      Usual disclaimer – I’m a Monsanto employee, my musings here are entirely my own and not those of my serpentine overlords, either those who prefer a good cover crop or those who like the harsh environment of a well lit cubicle.

      “the farmers are hard-working and intelligent, and Monsanto is a snake in the grass.”

      How does this reflect back on your earlier statement that there are better means of reducing the cost/benefit model? Are Monsanto really capable of tricking 90+% of farmers into using stuff that actually doesn’t benefit them? Are the countless scientific papers cataloging these benefits also defrauded?

      How did they defend their IP? By ensuring its continual value to the farmer, not by policing farms and writing contracts

      Or, indeed, by utilizing the PVP laws which categorically does result in policing to a certain extent (I haven’t done an exhaustive search, but if you look for instances of PVP enforcement even a white belt in google-fu can come across cases in wheat (a non-biotech crop) where PVP enforcement has occurred.

      It’s certain that the transgenic crops have offered benefits

      Indeed it is.

      But the benefits are temporary, and the cost?

      16 years and still beneficial. How long must a technology be useful before adoption is a good idea? Should I have never purchased a 464 back in the day because it is now a worthless piece of junk which can barely start up?

      Well, first off, the cost of the seeds themselves has continued to escalate

      Seed price is based on a percentage of the assumed benefit the seed will give. If a trait will boost your per acre gross by $15 then one would expect to pay more for it than if it were to boost your per acre yield by $5. The percentages you state are flat out false with regards to seed, Monsanto has approximately (and this is still large, but utterly different to your stated values) 30-40% (I think, possibly a touch lower)market share in the various crops, Pioneer (Monsanto’s chief competitor) has similar, Sygenta also has a big chunk of the pie.

      Glycosophate is safe? It causes birth defects

      Except that it doesn’t.

      and since pesticides associated to genetically modified foods have been found in pregnant women and their fetuses:

      Except they haven’t.

      thorough toxicology studies in these situations remain to be done.
      also,

      As there is no way to do a toxicological study on the basis of a flawed premise.

      In the southeast, resistant weeds are proving difficult to manage. They’ve in some cases taken over non-transgenic crop fields.

      “I don’t use glyphosate on my crop anyway, but this glyphosate resistance choking me ou… oh wait, no, that doesn’t make sense”

      Monsanto’s advice? incorporate older, more toxic pesticides, like 2,4-D

      Sage advice, herbicide rotation and mixes were sadly utterly ignored under the rather odd assumption that glyphosate would be invincible.

      like 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange

      And not the one that had any ill effects (the dioxin was a by-product of the manufacture of the other herbicide used in Agent Orange – water was also used in Agent Orange – should we demonize it too?

      “biotech tool” brought to us courtesy of Monsanto.

      Because herbicides developed by the US Government and produced during a time of war by major chemical companies (most of them) to help the war effort are quite clearly brought courtesy of one of the players. Particularly when the accused player quite clearly warned the US government (who gave not one fig) about the presence of dioxin as a by product and its potential toxicity.

      RoundUp is toxic to aquatic life

      Slightly to moderately, unless said aquatic life uses the enzyme which glyphosate targets in which case it is highly toxic (unsurprisingly) – glyphosate isn’t significantly mobile in soil and has a low half life.

      There even is a belief that GMOs are highly regulated and tested for safety

      This belief stems from the rather odd fact that they are both highly regulated and tested for safety. Although I’m sure someone can explain why else the regulatory cost of getting a product cleared is likely 60-80% of the whole cost of getting the thing to market all the way from discovery.

      the fact that the investigation was dropped without explanation says more about biotech’s power to hold sway in DC than it does about it’s innocence in market domination.

      This appears to offer a marvelous win-win situation for opponents of Biotech. If Monsanto wins it is through virtue of political corruption (one wonders exactly how a relatively small (compared to say oil or arms manufacturers, or indeed food processors and the like) multinational affords to keep the majority of governments in the world on board, or indeed why, if they do, they don’t do a rather better job of it – why is the regulatory system so expensive for instance? Shaving $60M+ off the development cost of a product seems like a fairly obvious business move should one hold sway in the corridors of power.

      It’s MAS that’s given us drought-resistant and more nutritious crops. Transgenic crops have never offered these benefits.

      Because vistive gold isn’t a thing, droughtgard hybrids aren’t a thing (tested last year in farmers fields, released to great aplomb this year, beat the snot out of Pioneer drought tolerant hybrids), and the entire R&D platform I work in isn’t, apparently, a thing.

      (barring Golden Rice, the usefulness of which remains to be seen in populations where malnourishment is the problem that needs addressing, not the lack of beta-carotene in rice)

      Yes, why fix the problem with something that’ll work when there is a far more difficult and unlikely to be attained solution that exists in someone’s head. Kid’s can deal with going blind for a few more decades while we fix the entire system of global governance. That’ll work.

      Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html

      Which is like some sort of horrible hydra, regardless of how many times you point out that the restrictions have been largely lifted and that scientists involved in the research are now happy…. It doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t play into your narrative.

      Part of the problem with the Monsanto paradigm is it’s lack of interdisciplinary science. Agriculture doesn’t happen in a lab. Believe it or not, we need indigenous unadulterated weed genomes to maintain the vigor of our hybridized food crops. The idea that you can “wipe out” bugs in some permanent fashion is naive and ecologically unsound. Plant and insect pests must be managed.

      That’s an awful lot of straw you’re stuffing into that argument. The idea that science done by Monsanto isn’t interdisciplinary is flat out ludicrous. Within a stones throw of my cube work molecular biologists, plant physiologists, crop physiologists, computer scientists, enzymologists, genome biologists – down the corridor exists a cube farm full of agronomists, folk with hands on farming experience, entomologists, IPM experts etc etc. Up the road (I believe, as far as I know regulatory still at least operates on a different campus) are various toxicologists and sundry folk who operate in the mysterious world of making sure that things which work in planta don’t cause issues during consumption.

      I surely do not! But neither do i feel it’s acceptable for corporations to indenture farmers with IP “contracts”.

      Which is all good and well as nobody is indentured.

      You seem to suggest that farmers have been violating patents prior to trangenic seeds because the creators weren’t able to effectively police the farms?

      (etc)
      As stated up block of text, this whole approach is patently (see what I did there!) silly. There are cases where IP infringement on non-transgenic seed have been prosecuted and won (wheat, as an example) – I’m unsure how many (this would in fact be a great question for someone better than I at google-fu to answer)

      this paper talks about a number of these issues.
      http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf

      CFS, rather like invoking AiG in a discussion on evolution.

      Monsanto spends $10 million a year and has 75 staffers for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting farmers.

      I guess if the CFS says this sans sourcing it must be true. (I guess it could be, but I’d bet my shirt that if such a group exists they do a lot more than investigating and prosecuting farmers, given the vanishingly small number of prosecutions per year you’d think they could do it far more effectively than this)

      I support the suggestions offered by the Union of Concerned Scientists:

      Another organization with all the scientific credibility of AiG.
      The tables in the CFS document make for some good analysis though on page 16 there isa cost per acre whereby soy costs:-
      1975 – 8.32
      1995 – 13.32 (60% increase)
      2011 – 56.58 (325% increase)
      In 1975 Soy was trading between 525 and 675 (lets call it a midpoint avg of 600)
      In 1995 between 575 and 725 (average of 650) (or an 8% increase on 1975)
      In 2011 soy traded between 1100 and 1200 (average of 1150) (or a 79% increase on 1995)
      So per percent point increase in trading price between 1975 and 1995 one sees a 7.5% increase in seed price.
      Per percent point increase in trading price between 1995 and 2011 one sees a 4.11% increase in seed price. So in terms of value capture the evil moguls of 1995 were stiffing the farmers worse than the grassy serpents of 2011. (and that is working with a massively simplistic model which assumes no change in average yield from the seed, which is clearly bloody silly)

      CFS and UCS do this sort of stuff routinely, they massage numbers and offer a happy ending, they employ utterly banal axes on graphs to make their point, they are dishonest hacks with no reason to be involved in the discussion.
      And yet, again and again, their putrid bile is spewed forth from the mouths of those they have duped as if it is gospel, and no doubt will be eternally.

      • Ewan R says:

        oh blockquote tags, why must you taunt me so.

        • Fixed! it looks like the link somehow messed up a blockquote tag, plus one was missing.

          • Ewan R says:

            I also apparently can’t remember computers… I bought a 486.

          • Mlema says:

            wow, a little help with editing from the board of directors! It’s really helped the authority of the response, with criticism properly bold and a left margin shift. I don’t think I’ve witnessed such personal assistance on a blog.
            Ewan, shouldn’t you thank Karl?

            • Ewan R says:

              He made a reply on his blog marginally more readable by fixing an error pointed out by the poster of said post. I guess I could get all gushy and thank him, but he’d likely get embarassed by the whole thing. So I won’t.

              It’s really helped the authority of the response, with criticism properly bold and a left margin shift.

              I use blockquotes with gay abandon. I infrequently (but catastrophically) get them wrong, on occasions where that occurs on this particular blog I generally see it fixed (Both Anastasia and Karl are superb at this sort of thing), the implication that Karl somehow altered my post drastically in order to make it more authoritative is misplaced he (from what I can tell) moved a greater than sign out of a link, and added the word blockquote (once) bordered by less than and greater than signs (were I better at html I’d show you, I’d probably avoid the whole nonsense if I used the tags it shows below, but I’m stuck in my ways.

              As stated above, it is frequently employed on Biofortified, where there is a refreshing acknowledgement that the discussion on a post is important.

            • Yeah, the Board of Directors convenes emergency sessions to decide which html tags to insert and delete to push our closed-tag agenda more effectively.

      • edgeben says:

        All your points were dead on, but I especially liked this one:

        water was also used in Agent Orange – should we demonize it too?

  19. Mlema says:

    Thanks Anastasia. Please let me say again that I appreciate this forum greatly. I provided the links because I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it when it comes to scientific evidence. (so, no, I don’t consider myself an authority) I felt too that the IP issue with regards to seeds was better served with a comprehensive piece like the one provided by the Center for Food Safety. I hope if the science presented in the peer-reviewed publications isn’t sound you will notify the journals in question. It’s important to keep scientists honest. There’s too many unseen influences in what gets studied and in how the results are analyzed.

    I certainly don’t mean to blame all the ills of the world on GE. Where did I do so? I did mean to illustrate the fuzzy terminology that gets used. “Genetic engineering” is a broad technology and some of it, like the topic in the Monsanto case, is not so beneficial. Some of it is incredibly beneficial. Why are we allowing beneficial GE to be tied to bad GE, and business practices that alienate consumers? Anyone who supports beneficial biotech should take a hard look at the PR disaster that Monsanto breeds.

    I spent a lot of time composing my response. I’m sorry if it didn’t turn out to be an appropriate style for this forum. I simply couldn’t let your comment on stupid farmers go unchallenged. Nor the apparent lack of information on how patented seeds have existed in the past. I guess I could have done that with a much shorter post. So again, I’m sorry, and I’ll turn the conversation back to you and the others here. Anyone can see that you’re an intelligent, educated and highly articulate scientist. I hope you will include in your further scientific consideration: the social, economic and environmental setting in which biotech exists. Thanks again. Best to all and special thanks to the farmers.

  20. Mlema says:

    OrchidGrowinMan, what does golden rice have to do with retinol, retinal or retinoic acid?
    Likewise, you misunderstand the nature of evolution in that: every living thing on the earth evolved along with every other living thing. Perhaps the word co-operation confused you. I did not mean to imply any intention in evolution. Organic matter continues to cycle through you, me and every other living thing. The food we eat indirectly eats us (eventually) species are irrevocably interdependent. The mechanisms with which this happens have been finely-tuned (if blindly) by evolution. Agriculture always exists within this cycling. We have simply played a role in selection through breeding. Until transgenic technology our manipulation of the plant genome has never included crossing a plant with an animal. This is the form of GE that serious scientists are indicating is poorly researched as to food safety and environmental effects.
    In more than one study (let me know if you want the links) proteonomic analysis has shown unexpected, unintended and unwanted variations in protein expression in GMOs as opposed to their corresponding non-GMOs. Our current safety protocol (whereby Monsanto does its own testing and then assures the FDA that the GMO is safe) doesn’t even include proteonomic analysis. How can we say that GM food is equivalent (the standard for commercial release)

    Accusing me of the naturalistic fallacy is an unwarranted reactionary attack.

    The criticism of golden rice that’s been made (by those more studied than me) is that vit A deficiency is a symptom of malnutrition. Kids aren’t going blind because rice doesn’t contain enough beta-carotene, they’re going blind because rice is all they have to eat. That’s a problem that can’t be addressed with GE technology, but that could be addressed with the application of proven agricultural science (including beneficial GMO’s) and a change in international finance policies. Golden Rice, like some other biotech solutions, is short-sighted and naive. The techno-fix fallacy.

    Your point about heterosis is exactly my point as well. When seed companies offer a quality hybrid, farmers buy. Let the farmer make the choice.

    • “Likewise, you misunderstand the nature of evolution in that: every living thing on the earth evolved along with every other living thing. Perhaps the word co-operation confused you. I did not mean to imply any intention in evolution. Organic matter continues to cycle through you, me and every other living thing. The food we eat indirectly eats us (eventually) species are irrevocably interdependent. The mechanisms with which this happens have been finely-tuned (if blindly) by evolution.”

      Nature is incredibly flexible, it would have to be or nothing would ever work. Most digestive enzymes are not very specific. In general, starch from a potato is the same as starch from an apple; ditto with proteins and simple sugars.

      If you think about it, an environment has to be able to process a wide array of proteins. If a deer dies in the woods, it decomposes in much the same manner as a bumblebee dying in the same exact spot would despite the fact the chemistry is somewhat different between the two animals.

      Nature is a lot less delicate than many believe when it comes to certain substances.

      “Agriculture always exists within this cycling. We have simply played a role in selection through breeding. Until transgenic technology our manipulation of the plant genome has never included crossing a plant with an animal. This is the form of GE that serious scientists are indicating is poorly researched as to food safety and environmental effects.”

      There are many examples of horizontal gene transfer between different species of animals, with some sea slugs (Elysia) actually stealing genes from plants. The species of wasp I studied in graduate school actually genetically modifies it’s host to survive. So, there are plenty examples of natural GMOs.

      The food safety effects of Bt crops are not poorly studied. I would direct you to the GENERA database above.

      The environmental effects of Bt crops are likewise well studied. For some groups, I have my quibbles with methodology but there are few environmental defects from Bt crops.

      • Mlema says:

        I stand corrected re: gene transfer between plants and animals. However, as I begin to study GENERA, I find some problems with the claim that it’s a list that supports safety in transgenic crops as well-studied. I will post my concerns somewhere else so as not to further take this post off-track.
        PS, nature doesn’t adjust to all forms of toxicity. And the ways in which it adapts to even non-toxic changes are gradual through evolution, not sudden from “flexibility”. I don’t think it’s scientifically sound to compare a horizontal gene transfer like the ones you mention to those occurring through transgenic technology, which could never otherwise happen, regardless of selective pressures. (please correct me again if I’m wrong in that assertion)
        also, perhaps you could start a forum discussion, as Anastasia has already pointed out this discussion is off-topic – thanks

  21. Mlema says:

    I’m sorry, it’s hard not to reply to a post directly addressed to me. But I really do want to back out of this conversation. I can’t respond to any further posts because I really can’t devote the time. I’m glad for the opportunity to express an anti-Monsanto sentiment when i get the sense that’s not the general feeling here. I hope that people will be able to see that genetic science can and has given incredible benefit to agriculture, but that transgenic organisms (an aspect of GE) remain poorly evaluated with regards to protein expression and environmental consequences.
    Thank you

  22. This way off topic comment thread has made me think about how to better keep threads on track. Please read this forum post on How to keep conversations on topic and share your ideas! Thanks!

  23. Mlema says:

    Whenever Monsanto is the topic of discussion, things are bound to go off track. It’s impossible to think about Monsanto vs. Bowman in a vacuum. I would have exited after my short original comments if I hadn’t been, I admit it, irritated by your defense of Monsanto. It also didn’t occur to me that you really might not remember what things were like before Monsanto’s patented transgenic seeds. I’m much older than you. I sincerely apologize.

    further apologies as I tried to register to say this on the forum, but it didn’t work for me.

  24. theoldtechnite says:

    Frankly, i don’t know how exhaustion of the Patent can apply here. After buying said inventions, he was indeed free to use them as he wished, except, of course, for making more of those inventions on his own.

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