Farmer Hugh Bowman hardly looks the part of a revolutionary who stands in the way of promising new biotech discoveries and threatens Monsanto's pursuit of new products it says will "feed the world."

"Hell's fire," said the 75-year-old self-described "eccentric old bachelor," who farms 300 acres (120 hectares) of land passed down from his father. Bowman sat in a recliner with his boots off, wearing reading glasses that still had the tag that once held them to a drugstore rack, and a Monsanto promotional cap on his balding head. "I am less than a drop in the bucket."

Yet Bowman's unorthodox soybean farming techniques have landed him at the center of a national battle over genetically modified crops.