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Soybean ETF Higher as Traders Focus on Supreme Court Patent Case


Agriculture exchange traded funds have performed poorly in recent months but Teucrium Soybean Fund (SOYB) has weathered the downturn better than most of the ETFs in the category.

Soybean traders will be closely watching a patent lawsuit that has gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

The court case poses the question whether 75-year-old Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman violated the patent rights held by Monsanto (MON), which developed soybean and other seeds that survive when farmers spray their fields with the company’s Roundup brand weed-killer, the Associated Press reports.

Arguments in the case are taking place Tuesday, according to the report. [Soybean ETF: Supply Shortage]

SOYB is a relatively small ETF with $7.8 million in total net assets. The fund is designed to reflect the movement of soybean futures contracts.

Other agribusiness companies have sided with Monsanto “because they fear a decision in favor of Bowman would leave their own technological innovations open to poaching,” the AP reports.

“The Obama administration also backs Monsanto, having earlier urged the court to stay out of the case because of the potential for far-reaching implications for patents involving DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies,” according to the article. “Monsanto’s opponents argue that the company has tried to use patent law to control the supply of seeds for soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa. The result has been a dramatic rise in seed prices and reduced options for farmers, according to the Center for Food Safety.”

SOYB was up more than 2% on Tuesday following a separate AP story saying the Supreme Court appears likely to side with Monsanto.

“None of the justices in arguments at the high court Tuesday seemed ready to endorse farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman’s argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide,” according to the report.

“Chief Justice John Roberts wondered ‘why anyone in the world’ would invest time and money on seeds if it was so easy to evade patent protection,” it added.

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