Bayer/Monsanto Win Brazilian Seed Patent Challenge
In what is being called a “landmark” class-action lawsuit, brought by the national farmers’ unions against Monsanto, a Brazilian appeals court has found in favor the company bought out by Germany’s Bayer in 2018.
Unlike the thousands of lawsuits in the US in which plaintiffs charged that the former Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused their cancer, in this case the farmer sought to upend the company’s rules forbidding growers from reusing seeds.
The dispute over the royalties Monsanto claimed it was owed is considered to be worth some $7.7 billion. It is also expected to be taken to the Brazilian supreme court.
In overturning a lower court verdict, the nine justices unanimously agreed that farmers may not save seeds for replanting if they were harvested from Roundup Ready soybeans, which are genetically engineered to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide.
In previous disputes heard in the US and Canada, courts have also ruled in favor of the former Monsanto, saying that as a product of genetic engineering, Roundup Ready soybeans are protected by domestic patent law.
The respective supreme courts of those two countries have already upheld the exclusive rights of a patent holder over plant genetic sequences, and buyers are required to sign extensive licensing agreements that prevent them from saving seeds.
In a statement, the local Monsanto operation said the decision will strengthen “agricultural innovation in Brazil.” At the same time, reports said the debate over seed patents will surely continue as some law specialists contend that the rights of a seeds engineering firm should not necessarily outweigh those of the owner of a plant patent, as this would violate Brazil’s plant variety act.
Separately, Brazilian soybean farmers are challenging the validity of Monsanto’s patent on second-generation Roundup Ready soybeans.