Monsanto Drops Seed Patent Lawsuit Against North Dakota Family

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Published November 5, 2001

Associated Press | October 30, 2001

FARGO, N.D. - Monsanto Co. is settling a seed patent violation lawsuit it filed against a North Dakota farmer and his sons.

The St. Louis-based company had contended that Roger Nelson and his sons, Greg and Rodney, of Amenia, N.D., illegally saved Roundup Ready seed in 1998 and planted it a year later. The Nelsons denied the company's claims. Roundup Ready seeds are immune to Roundup, a herbicide made by Monsanto. It was developed so farmers could use the herbicide to kill weeds while not hurting their crop.

Monsanto, in its federal court case, said the Nelsons had not paid technical fees for some of their 1999-planted seed, a violation of patent laws.

The case led to a new state law allowing farmers to ask the North Dakota State Seed Department to accompany investigators when they collect field samples for evidence.

Monsanto spokeswoman Lori Fisher said the settlement includes a confidentiality agreement. She would not release details.

"We think the resolution is one that is not only fair to Monsanto, but to the Nelsons and to farmers everywhere," she said.

"I'm relieved it's over," said Roger Nelson, who was in Fargo on Monday for physical rehabilitation after Aug. 29 heart bypass surgery. "We're still terribly upset at how we were used."

He said his family is satisfied with the settlement, but also declined to discuss details.

"We feel like we were singled out because we planted part of the farm to Roundup (Ready) and part to conventional," he said. "We were well-prepared to go to court. We had plenty of evidence to show we did nothing wrong. But we looked at the cost of going to St. Louis and for taking our witnesses down there."

Without a settlement, Nelson said, his family had no assurance that the trial would not come during planting or some other busy farming season.