Soybean seed dispute should end, says board
BISMARCK, ND - A state board says it has not found enough evidence to support a lawsuit against a Cass County farm accused of violating a company's patent by replanting genetically engineered soybean seeds without authorization.
Nelson Farm, which is operated by Greg, Roger and Rodney Nelson near Amenia, is being sued in federal court in Missouri by St. Louis-based Monsanto, which develops the seeds.
"The Nelsons presented substantial evidence suggesting that they did not save any of their seed from an earlier year and replant it," said Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson after Thursday's vote by the North Dakota Seed Arbitration board.
The Nelsons went to the board in January fro a recommendation in the dispute. The board based its findings on the hearing held in March. Its recommendation is nonbinding, but could be used as evidence in court.
"We knew all along we hadn't done anything wrong," said Roger Nelson, who raises about 8,600 acres of wheat and soybeans in the Amenia area with his sons.
Lori Fisher, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, said in a telephone interview that the company did not attend the March hearing because it did not feel a state seed arbitration panel was the proper venue to talk about patent infringement.
"Monsanto has been and continues to be ready to settle this entire matter with the Nelsons," she said. "We've offered time and again to sit down with them privately and resolve this, and that hasn't happened yet."
The company contends with Nelsons violated a contract by planting seed in 1999 that had been saved from the previous year. The genetically engineered soybeans are immune to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Johnson said Thursday the investigation was done in "a very unscientific, haphazard fashion."
"The evidence indicated that they very likely sampled the wrong fields, fields that weren't even the Nelson's," Johnson said.
Fisher said the investigators sampled the fields the Nelsons said were theirs.
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