Monsanto took Percy Shmeiser to court because their crop contaminated his field.
In a 5-4 decision, the Canadian Supreme Court held that Mr.
Schmeiser had violated Monsanto's patent by planting seed from GE
canola that had been found on his farm the previous year.
"This is a sad day for farmers worldwide," said Pat Venditti,
our Genetic Engineering campaigner in Canada. "Monsanto's canola
has been contaminating the fields of Western Canada for years now,
as there is no way to contain their transgenic pollution.
Unfortunately, the Court has held that Monsanto can keep polluting
farmers' fields and keep menacing them with costly lawsuits.
Farmers should be able to keep their fields GE-free, but the Court
has held that's a decision best left to Monsanto."
In 1997, Schmeiser discovered, while routinely spraying
herbicide along a ditch, that some of his canola plants had become
herbicide-resistant - contaminated by pollen from Monsanto's
patented herbicide-resistant canola.
In August 1998, Monsanto launched a lawsuit against Schmeiser
for patent infringement, alleging that Schmeiser had acquired and
planted seeds containing patented genes without a license, and then
sold harvested seed, thus infringing the company's patent. Mr.
Schmeiser has become a globally known figure during his long legal
battle with Monsanto.
Three main issues were deliberated by the Canadian Supreme
1)The validity and scope of genetic patents - whether or not
life forms may be patented.
2) What kind of use constitutes infringement? Schmeiser argued
that since he never sprayed his plants with Monsanto's Roundup, and
thus never took advantage of the crop's herbicide resistance, he
never benefited in any way from the presence of Monsanto's patented
material in his crops. In this case, Schmeiser argued that as he
did not exploit Monsanto's invention, he did not infringe
3) The "innocent bystander" problem. Schmeiser argued that where
patented material passively and inadvertently mixes with personal
property, the property holder should not be held accountable to the
patent holder. Instead, in such cases the innocent bystander should
be protected by an implied license from the patent holder.
"Genetic contamination from genetically engineered canola is
rampant," continued Mr. Venditti. "Monsanto has introduced an
uncontrollable crop with no liability to farmers or the public.
This ignores the widespread contamination being caused by Monsanto.
The decision of the court essentially makes farmers liable to
Monsanto for Monsanto's own genetic pollution. It means that
Monsanto can reach into farmers' fields and steal their profits and
The decision follows two major setbacks for Monsanto, who
announced last week they would back off on plans to commercialise
GE wheat globally and GE canola in Australia after strong consumer
and industry resistance to the crops. In a small win for Schmeiser,
he will not be required to pay Monsanto for the seed or legal costs
relating to the case.