Monsanto Taken to
Supreme Court by
Canadian Farmer Percy Schmeiser
recommended: Percy Schmeiser telling his story in
Heartbreak in the Heartland: The True Cost of Genetically Engineered Crops
Also translated into Spanish, French, Chinese, and Hindi
A farmer crusading against genetically modified grain won the right to take the case to the Canadian Supreme Court to challenge the patent rights of biotech giant Monsanto.
In what began as a question of whether Percy Schmeiser had grown Monsanto grain without a license on his Saskatchewan farm, the case has broadened to what Schmeiser sees as a David-and-Goliath battle over genetically altered food.
The Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear an appeal of lower-court decisions that Schmeiser had violated the Monsanto patent for canola modified to tolerate the herbicide Roundup.
It is a powerful invention - all the weeds disappear but the canola is left standing - and 80% of the country's farmers now grow transgenic canola. Canola is the Canadian variant of rapeseed, used especially for cooking oil.
Monsanto is also hoping to introduce Roundup Ready wheat, for a much larger market, but many farm groups are wary because most international buyers say they do not want genetically modified wheat.
The company took Schmeiser to court after it discovered its patented transgenic canola growing on his farm. Schmeiser had not signed a $C15 ($US10.80) per acre agreement with the company to grow it.
Schmeiser says he spent 40 years cultivating his own, conventional canola varieties, saving seed from one crop to plant the next and that he did not know how the genetically modified plants ended up on his farm.
He suggested that seeds blew off passing trucks, or pollen from nearby farms was carried in by wind, insects or birds, and he contended that Monsanto had unleashed an "invention" they could not control into the environment.
Monsanto said independent tests of Schmeiser's farm had found that 1,030 acres were 95% to 98% tolerant to Roundup - though this was contested by the farmer.
Referring to the trial judge's decision in 2001, Monsanto said in a statement: "At such a high level of tolerance, Justice MacKay ruled the seed could only be of commercial quality and could not have arrived in Mr Schmeiser's field by accident."
Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan said: "We were hopeful the unanimous decision of the Federal Court of Appeal would have put an end to unnecessary and costly legal action in this case."
The Supreme Court is not likely to be hear the case before the northern autumn at the earliest.
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