February 19th, 2013
04:36 PM ET

Smalltown farmer fights agribusiness giant

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) - If ever there was a David and Goliath story, the case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday certainly qualifies. And the justices’ ruling, expected by June, could have implications for everything from agribusiness to stem cell research.

On one side of the battle is agricultural giant Monsanto, which sells genetically modified crops. On the other side is Vernon Bowman of Sandborn, Indiana. He's a farmer who grows wheat and soybeans on a 300-acre farm.

The trouble between him and Monsanto started in 1999, when Bowman planted, harvested and replanted (from harvested seeds) soybeans that included patented genetic material sold by Monsanto. The company told Bowman that he was violating their patent by replanting their variety of soybeans without paying for new seeds. But Bowman would not back down:

[2:14] “I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. I just didn’t like what they’re doing so I wasn’t going to give in.”

Monsanto took Bowman to court and, so far, has won both at the district and appellate levels. The outcome in the Supreme Court could affect agribusiness, companies working on patented cell lines, and even the future of healthcare and stem cell technologies.

If these companies aren’t allowed to protect their patents, Monsanto and supporters of the company’s position argue, then they wouldn’t have a financial incentive to invest in research.

For more on the case and how Bowman ended up in a legal battle with Monsanto, listen to our story above.

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