Schmeiser loses Monsanto battle

The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with the U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto in the firm's patent fight against Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.

The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with the U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto in the firm's patent fight against Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.

In what is thought to be the first ruling of its kind anywhere in the world, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Monsanto can hold a patent on its genetically modified canola plant.

Monsanto inserts a gene into a canola plant to make it pesticide-resistant. The company holds patents over the gene and the insertion process, and argued the patent should extend to control of the plant.

The company alleged Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser grew the patented canola seeds without paying for them, therefore infringing on the company's patent.

Schmeiser argued the canola seed blew onto his property from a nearby farmer's truck without his knowledge. He has said the plants "polluted" his fields.

In a small victory for Schmeiser, the Supreme Court ruled he does not have to pay the $19,000 he made off his 1998 crop harvest to Monsanto.

Schmeiser had already lost his case in lower courts.

In 2002, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling that found Schmeiser guilty of illegally planting the Monsanto canola on his property. He was ordered to pay $175,000 in damages, plus court costs.

In 2003, the government of Ontario intervened in Schmeiser's Supreme Court case, saying it has "important implications for the development of public policy in Ontario including the delivery of health care to its residents." Ontario argued a gene molecule can be patented, but not the genetic information within the molecule.

The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled against patenting a higher life form in the case of the Harvard mouse.

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  • Dec. 5, 2002: Supreme Court rejects patent on genetically-modified mouse