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Federal appeals court rules for Monsanto in seed patent suit

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] on Monday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a suit against Monsanto [corporate website] challenging its patents on genetically modified seeds. The suit was filed by farmers that have no desire to sow the genetically modified seeds as a preemptive action against Monsanto, which has a lengthy history [JURIST news archive] of bringing action against farmers who have sown Monsanto seeds without paying royalties. Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, has previously made "binding assurances" that it would not bring suit against farmers whose crops were inadvertently contaminated with trace amounts of Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Dyk stated:

Monsanto's binding representations remove any risk of suit against the appellants as users or sellers of trace amounts (less than one percent) of modified seed. The appellants have alleged no concrete plans or activities to use or sell greater than trace amounts of modified seed, and accordingly fail to show any risk of suit on that basis.
Affirming the lower court's ruling, the suit was dismissed for lack of controversy.

The recent prevalence of genetically modified crops has been a point of contention in courts around the world. Last month the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] in Bowman v. Monsanto [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that a farmer who buys patented seeds may not reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder's permission, even though the seeds are altered to self-replicate. In March 2011 the European Court of Justice declared [JURIST report] that a ban on cultivating genetically modified crops is illegal after France attempted to prohibit the production of a strain of genetically modified maize developed by Monsanto in 2008. In December 2010 a federal judge ordered the destruction [JURIST report] of a crop of genetically engineered sugar beets due to its potential harmful effect on surrounding flora.

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