God as First Seed Maker

Pending Case of Monsanto v. Bowman Raises Tough Issues (4.18.13)

Genesis1,11: God said: "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to it's kind, on the earth. And it was so."

Deuteronomy19,19: "Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seeds."

Revelation9,4: "They were told not to do damage to the grass or to any plant [ie any crops] or tree..."

Matthew13,3b " 'A sower [God] went out to sow..."

The bible tells us human beings at Genesis 1,11 that God is the inventor of every seed.

It later tells us at Matthew13,3b that God is also a sower of seeds.

So God is both seed maker and seed sower.

This suggests that as farmers sow and reap they are doing something important- feeding his people. Thus, I'm thinking God has some definite opinions about us sharing this type of life giving activity with him.

Now comes Monsanto in the last 30 years genetically modifying God's seeds and making them "better" (more high yielding anyway).

This new seed business was a "win win" for Monsanto in that it tied in nicely with their well-established fertilzer and pesticide-herbicide lines. They got to work and designed their pesticide-herbicides to perfectly fit their new generation of patent-protected genetically modified seeds ("GM" or "GMOs").  

And before anyone could raise a eyebrow, or ask for labels in the supermarket, or consider that God might not be inspiring us to improve his seeds, by 1996 there was "Round Up" (Monsanto's registered trademark) resistant soybeans to feed the whole world.

Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman was a loyal Monsanto GM soybean seed customer. He wasn't protesting the fact that Monsanto has come to control 90% of the soybean seed market, or that since the mid 1990s they ponied up 12 billion dollars to buy out 30 seed businesses in the U.S. (Salon, March 15, 2013).   

Nor was he likely concerned when Monsanto sued hundreds of farmers in twenty seven states to protect the non-contractual use of their patented seeds (, well, until they sued him too in 2009 in Federal District Court in Indiana.

As a loyal customer, the wise farmer Vernon knew the high yield of the Monsanto GM seed. So he figured that if he went down to the local grain lot and bought a second generation soybean seed mix that contained a goodly portion of these wonder seeds, he could plant a second soybean planting, and make out pretty good for his trouble.

Perhaps he even thanked God for the fact that GM soybeans apparently replicate just as well as God's seeds. And let's not forget, he bought and owned the seeds, that weren't covered by any contract he signed with Monsanto.   

The District Court of Indiana and the Federal Court of Appeals both said that Bowman owed $84,000 to Monsanto. Their decisions suggest that they thought Bowman was too clever by half.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on February 19, 2013 and given the corporation friendly climate of the present court, one would think Monsanto is well positioned to win.

Not so fast.

This court also has before it another weighty case, argued along similar lines, wherein a human DNA gene has been isolated and is arguably protected against unauthorized replicable "invention", and is therefore patentable (Association For Molecular Pathology V. Myriad Genetics. Oral arguments were just heard April 15, 2013).

The Monsanto v. Bowman case probably will hinge on the whether the court credits a corporation for the replication of a third generation seed as if the replication of foodstuffs and genes are like the replication of CDs or computer software by third parties.

But these distinctions between "life stuffs" and industrial products reflect just the distinguishing point of this case.

GM seeds are still seeds.

And isolated human genes are still genes.

And as such, they are still  the very stuff of sustenance and life, still derived from God, still primarily and to an extent freely provided by God, or your "higher power", or your evolution. Thus, they are still the stuff of a higher jurisdiction than the Supreme court interpreting laws made long ago regarding industrial widgets.

To my mind, as follower of Jesus who primarily fed and healed, when we are dealing with food and the potential uses of DNA fragments, we human beings are not primarily under man's jurisdiction, but still under God's jursidiction and his creative decree of Genesis 1,11.

Yes this second jurisdiction levels the playing field a bit between farmers and big corporations like Monsanto and demands that the sowing and reaping of some things must be tailored by legislative and case law and contract and property law so as to equitably bless all humanity. 

Many national and local governments around the world believe the same thing and are fighting against GMOs on this same point, not because the corporations that make them are all bad, but that international patent law in regard to food and gene modification needs to adapt and also reflect higher human standards than protecting the strictly profit making motives of industrial production.

Therefore, any patent protection given by human courts in such areas as food sustenance and the very building blocks of life should be very narrowly interpreted on well established contractual and property bases.

This would have the added benefit of buying courts around the world some time to sort out these matters and also leave a little wiggle room to legislatively tailor present and future patentable scientific discoveries in the areas of food sustenance and gene technology so that these discoveries would clearly benefit of all humanity, not solely to satisfy the profit motives of corporations in these fields.  

What the Monsanto v. Bowman case really comes down to who gets the credit and protection of the U.S. government for replicating a genetically modified soybean seed?

God, the maker of all seeds, and sustainer of all life?

A farmer not under contract with Monsanto, a farmer being a farmer, and buying and planting seeds?

Or, a patent holder who had a good idea, then tweaked God's seed, and by happy law made it their own patentable "invention"?

Lead counsel for Vernon Bowman in his final words of oral argument  back in March hints at this unspoken issue of justice and benefit sharing which lies under the surface of Monsanto v. Bowman:

"We disagree that the activity of basic farming could be considered an invention."

Planting a mix of GM seed and non GM seed and then reaping more like seed, is still primarily a hope and a promise from God.

He should still get most of the credit.

Or, with no look over the horizon, should we just credit and protect Monsanto for having gained 90% of the soybean market, and collectively buy into the notion that seed-food replication is no different than the replication of an industrial widget, or computer software or music?   



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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.