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News from Around the Farm World - Feb. 20, 2013
Farmer challenging Monsanto over GMO crops
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A 75-year-old Indiana grain farmer is taking on Monsanto Co. at the U.S. Supreme Court this week in a patent battle that could have ramifications for the biotechnology industry and possibly the future of food production, according to a Feb. 15 Thomson Reuters article.

The court was hear arguments Feb. 19 in the dispute, which started when soybean farmer Vernon Bowman bought and planted a mix of unmarked grain typically used for animal feed. The plants that grew turned out to contain the Roundup Ready trait.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based biotech giant accused Bowman of infringing its patents by growing plants that contained its genetics. But Bowman, who grows wheat and corn along with soybeans on about 300 acres inherited from his father, argued he used second-generation grain and not the original seeds covered by Monsanto’s patents.

A central issue for the court is the extent that a patent holder, or the developer of a genetically modified seed, can control its use through multiple generations of seed.

More than 50 organizations, from environmental groups to intellectual property experts, as well as the U.S. government, have filed legal briefs hoping to sway the high court.

“This case really centers on the question of 21st century technology such as what we bring in agriculture and other companies bring for say stem cell research or nanotechnology ... and how they’re going to be handled under principles of intellectual property law,” said Monsanto general counsel Dave Snively.

“I bought new seed every year for my first crop. If I had such a good scheme, why did I do that?” Bowman told Reuters. “If I done something wrong, I should pay for it. If I didn’t, then I shouldn’t. I don’t think I did.”

Feds: Ohio man ordered drilling waste dumped
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — A northeastern Ohio man charged with violating the federal Clean Water Act is suspected of having an employee repeatedly dump gas-drilling wastewater into a storm sewer, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Hardrock Excavating LLC owner Ben Lupo, of nearby Poland, Ohio, appeared in court Thursday and pled not guilty, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said. Lupo, 62, faces up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release if convicted.
No attorney was listed for him in court records and there was no immediate comment in response to a message left at his office.
Authorities allege Lupo repeatedly directed that unknown amounts of drilling mud and brine be discharged into a sewer that empties into the Mahoning River watershed. They said Lupo admitted giving such orders six times, but an employee told authorities waste was dumped into the drain at least 20 times.

The employee told the investigators Lupo had issued a directive to say, if questioned by officials about it, that the dumping had occurred only four or six times.

Investigators following up on an anonymous tip about the illegal dumping visited Hardrock, a brine hauler, two weeks ago and found a hose running from a storage tank into a storm drain, Dettelbach said. The facility’s approximately 58 storage tanks each can hold about 20,000 gallons.

An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency crew went to the scene the following morning and found a tank drained to within 18 inches of the bottom. The amount allegedly drained wasn’t specified. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources revoked the permits of Hardrock and D&L Energy after workers at the companies’ Youngstown headquarters reported seeing the material being dumped.

Dettelbach said the investigation is ongoing and declined to comment on whether others might be charged. “Obviously the existence of Utica Shale and natural gas under our feet provide a great opportunity for Ohio, but it also provides a challenge for us,” he said. “Companies and workers must follow the rules when they extract this valuable natural resource.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the state intends to take civil action in the case in regard to allegations of illegal storage, transportation and disposal. DeWine said fines for such violations could total thousands of dollars daily.