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Monsanto Wins Case Over Patented Canola 599

c writes "The Supreme Court of Canada says that you're liable if a plant with a patented gene infects your property. If you recall, Schmeiser claims (and research supports) that Roundup Ready canola seeds infected his own crops. Monsanto prosecuted him for patent infringement." Some other links: Monsanto's press release, Globe and Mail story.
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Monsanto Wins Case Over Patented Canola

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  • by Allen Zadr ( 767458 ) * <Allen DOT Zadr AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:33PM (#9219879) Journal

    I would have thought that genetically modified crops would be unable to reproduce by some manipulation. I'm quite surprised to hear from the articles and research linked that this is not the case.

    I imagine the purists who want full organic food may be surprised that thier food may be cross-polinated with a genetic crop.

    • by macmaniac ( 734596 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:38PM (#9219938) Homepage
      I would have thought that genetically modified crops would be unable to reproduce by some manipulation. I'm quite surprised to hear from the articles and research linked that this is not the case.
      They may be modified somewhat, but in order to make it so that crops would not reproduce, you would probably have to create an entirely new method for them to bear fruit or whatever crop they use, since this process is naturally cared for by pollenization, part of the reproductive process of most plants.... Even if they managed to produce such a modification, since they were created/modified by humans, error is inevitable, like what happened in the movie Jurassic Park.
      • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:13PM (#9220329) Homepage Journal
        Just manipulating DNA in things does NOT automatically render them sterile as far as reproduction goes. This is what does lend danger to the man made stuff mixing into the natural crops. A real possibility, I would guess, is that long term, we might lose the 'real thing' having been contaminated by the man altered stuff.

        Heck, we have lots of crops that really aren't available today...if not for people dedicated to protecting 'heirloom' vegetables. Notice how tomatoes nowdays pretty much have no flavor, but, are nice and uniform in color and size?

        I went to a farm up north just outside of NH last year where they specialize in heirloom tomatoes. Man, I'd forgotten what they used to really taste like in my youth...and the different colored ones...some with yellow, tiger striped ones, purple ones....and many in non uniform shapes and sizes. But, flavor was the MAIN thing that stood out on these...

        I really used to think the 'organic' foods movement was pretty much a crock...but, this started me thinking a little different...

        • It should be noted that the reason generic grocery tomatoes suck is not because of genetic engeneering. Heck it isn't even really that the varieties are sold are untasty.

          It is the fact that the darn things are picked green for handling by automation and shipping, only later to be "ripened" by exposure to ethelyne gas.

          The only trouble is that while the ethelyne may reproduce the softening portion of ripening that happens on the vine, it doesn't load up any of the tasty compunds into the tomato that normaly
        • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @09:10PM (#9222022)
          I went to a farm up north just outside of NH last year where they specialize in heirloom tomatoes. Man, I'd forgotten what they used to really taste like in my youth...But, flavor was the MAIN thing that stood out on these... I really used to think the 'organic' foods movement was pretty much a crock...but, this started me thinking a little different...

          Umm thats has nothing to do with GM foods or organic foods, much like how today's roses have lost their fragerence after years of cross breading, today's tomato's have been breed to be physically beautiful sacrificing taste because at grocery store, regular people don't get tomato's on taste but whether not they are round,red and not bruised.

    • by cemaco ( 665884 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:39PM (#9219951)
      Not all genetically altered crops are sterile. To be honest I think they should be. That way it's easier to remove them from the food chain if we find out down the line that there is a problem.

      • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:18PM (#9220379)
        That way it's easier to remove them from the food chain if we find out down the line that there is a problem.

        That's an even bigger problem. Now farmers can't set aside part of their crop for the next season's planting, and instead have to go back to Monsanto (or whomever) to buy more seed each year. Suppose Monsanto has a superior variety of wheat that grabs a big portion of the world market (which is what they're trying to do, after all). Then you have a big chunk of the world's food supply depending on one company and the relatively few seed farms that it operates. Even if the company has the best of intentions, any major problems -- disease, pests, natural disasters, terrorism -- on a small number of seed farms could then have huge repercussions worldwide.

        • Now farmers can't set aside part of their crop for the next season's planting,

          [tin foil hat mode]
          They could as long a black helicopter didn't drop patented seeds on their fields durring the night.
          [/tin foil hat mode]
      • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:35PM (#9220559)
        Computer life: Virus - Reproduces and propogates. It's illegal to infect others knowingly, but legal to become infected.

        Agraculterual life: GM food - Reproduces and propogates. It's legal to infect others and illegale to become infected.

        Big problem here. If the same rules applied to computer life as GM food then I could copywrite a virus and charge my victims... er, customers who become infected. I'd be rich beyond my wildest dreams. This needs to be fixed.

    • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:54PM (#9220132) Homepage Journal
      ..what we are surpirsed is that 99% of the population has no clue about the food they eat other than it comes from the supermarket automagically.

      We've been lobbying against this stuff for years, for that very reason, it infects our stuff, and then they claim ownership? Huh? Howzzat again?

      Just wait. If you are just hearing about roundup ready and cross pollination and infection, wait to you hear about terminator genes and cross pollination. Ohh, that's a goody. Makes a plant live one year, then all it's offspring is infertile. Think on that one for a bit. Think about the winds, how they cross borders, let alone mere fields and counties. Give it a few years once they start using that sort of seed, you'll have one company "owning" the planets food supply, then their stuff will get borken and--not much food at all. It very easily could happen, you aren't stopping the wind.

      Lotta groovy short term profits though, until that happens.

      After that, can't say. Most likely world class famine at a minimum.
      • Check your facts (Score:4, Informative)

        by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @09:05PM (#9222003)
        Just wait. If you are just hearing about roundup ready and cross pollination and infection, wait to you hear about terminator genes and cross pollination. Ohh, that's a goody. Makes a plant live one year, then all it's offspring is infertile.

        Umm they pulled the terminator gene 5 years ago. You've been lobbying against GM foods? Yet you don't even know the terminator gene program has been abandoned? If your going to protest something at least be informed about the subject, it helps you cause a lot better than making ignorant statements.

        Monsanto pulls terminator gene [bbc.co.uk]

    • by Graff ( 532189 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:59PM (#9220181)
      I imagine the purists who want full organic food may be surprised that thier food may be cross-polinated with a genetic crop.

      I would imagine that the crops are still organic, being that they grow and are composed mostly of carbon molecules and water...

      I'm sure that this crop is a lot tastier and nutritious than the INorganic rocks and dirt that are just lying around!
      • OK, smartass (Score:4, Informative)

        by Theatetus ( 521747 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:24PM (#9220446) Journal

        Words often have different meanings depending on the domain in which they are used. One such word is "organic". In chemistry, it refers to compounds based on carbon. In agriculture, it doesn't mean that.

        Quoth m-w.com:

        3 a (1) : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms (2) :
        of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides (as organic farming, organic produce) b (1) : of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (2) : relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds

        Monsanto is evil. Very very evil. You think Microsoft or the RIAA are evil? Multiply that by about 200,000 and you might get some idea of how evil Monstanto and ADM are. GM "food" is going to wind up being the next black plague...

    • by sporktoast ( 246027 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:03PM (#9220228) Homepage

      Surprised isn't the word. Try pissed. For close to a decade, now.

      I would have thought that genetically modified crops would be unable to reproduce by some manipulation. I'm quite surprised to hear from the articles and research linked that this is not the case.
      You're thinking about Monsanto's [google.com] PR-failing terminator [organicconsumers.org] seeds. The doo-doo started hitting the fan for them in 1998. They were the ones that would produce sterile seed unless treated with a Monsanto-owned chemical. The problem was that it was possible for the new gene to cross via pollen into neighbors crops. It's one thing to have your organic corn become valueless (and get a hefty legal judgement against you for "stealing") because the wind blows your neighbor's crop pollen your way. It is a completely different thing to discover what happened only next spring, when the only thing coming up in the back 40 is weeds because your saved organic seed *somehow* became sterile.

      To their credit, Monsanto DID voluntarily declare they wouldn't use the terminator genes. For an undeclared period. But they've have been granted the patents on them, so it's an ace they can still play.

  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:34PM (#9219887) Homepage Journal
    I guess this proves that we south-side folks aren't the only ones whose judiciary occasionally suffers from recto-cranial inversion, as shown by these two statements from Monsanto's own press release:

    Monsanto originally pursued this case in the Federal Court of Canada because Mr. Schmeiser knowingly infringed Monsanto's patents on Roundup Ready technology by planting 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola without paying the required license fee for using the technology.

    Ok, you say he purposely planted a strain of seed whose sole claim to fame is that Monsanto's herbicides don't kill it. But then:

    However, the Supreme Court determined there was insufficient evidence that Mr. Schmeiser intentionally made use of the benefits provided by Monsanto's technology by spraying his crop with Roundup.

    What? The guy planted this bastardized seed, supposedly on purpose, then didn't do the one thing that the seed is good for -- spraying with poison?

    No wonder Monsanto sued. They're pi^h^h upset that he didn't buy the matching 55-gallon drums of Roundup. They couldn't have cared less if the guy used the patented seed -- they'd probably give it away for free if they could force the recipients to use their also-patented herbicide.

    I'm waiting for someone to swipe some of these Frankenseeds and create Roundup-resistant dandelions. That'll teach 'em!
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:47PM (#9220050)
      It's already happening:


      You've got to laugh. Who would have thought that evolution would be developing it's own roundup resistance. Damn that Charles Darwin.

      Maybe the Monsanto executives are creationists.

    • Slight correction:
      Roundup is not patented, IIRC. The active ingredient is glyphosate. It's marketed under other names like glyphos and touchdown.

      Even though all these chemicals are essentially the same, Monsanto has their contracts written in such a way that if you don't use roundup, the seeds have no warranty, and perhaps other "bad things"

      My dad farms, grows roundup ready soybeans, and used to sell ag chemicals, as well as being a professional agronomist.

  • What can I patent? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SnowDeath ( 157414 ) <peteguhl@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:35PM (#9219898) Homepage
    Perhaps Air? Sorry, you have to have a license to breathe that air! Patenting genes and software are just baaaaad ideas IMHO.
  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Punboy ( 737239 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:36PM (#9219911) Homepage
    Shouldn't this situation be reversed? The defendant should sue the other guy for damaging his crops!
    • by Omega ( 1602 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:22PM (#9220424) Homepage
      The court just handed AgriBusiness a big tool they can use to stomp out Mom & Pop farmers.

      Just throw a few seeds or spread a few spores or spray a special coat of some patented genes on some of your competitor's fields (surreptitiously of course, maybe hire someone else to do it); and they'll lose all their crops.

      After all, you can't be sure where all the cross pollenation occured, so you'll have to wipe out the entire crop and burn the field to be sure it's gone. While AgriBusiness could afford to fight this, after all they own hundreds of different fields and could lose a crop or two in the name of competition, small/independent farmers would stand no chance.

  • by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (cificap_4k)> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:36PM (#9219912) Homepage Journal
    A local man injured by stray gunfire was arrested for stealing bullets.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:37PM (#9219922)

    This really does seem to me to be a sticky issue...

    It's impossible for a farmer to build a barrier to stop unwanted seeds from falling in. That's why they have to rely on weed-killing products and such to kill off what they didn't plant. Of course, the most common weed-killing product being RoundUp, and this being something designed to allow the canola to be ready for the use of RoundUp, that solution just plain isn't gonna work.

    On the other hand, patents exist to allow companies to profit from their innovations. If Monsanto's patented genes are allowed to escape into the wild, then their monopoly privledge is lost and there goes any reason to create such innovations.

    If anything, the burden should be placed on the farmers using the licensed seeds to control their plants so that they don't endup allowing seeds to go "into the wild".

    This problem is only going to get worse before it gets better. There's a worse case that hasn't been encountered yet. If the consumer marketplace ends up with genetically modified apples that aren't intentionally seedless, then who knows where those apple seeds might wind up. If that modification turns up to be dominant, then non-modified apple trees are going to have a fight with the force of evolution.
    • by k12linux ( 627320 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:45PM (#9220019)
      So, if I write a virus which has a sole purpose of installing security patches on a network.. and I sell this as a service some company with the instructions that the "software" must be contained within their network... wouldn't it be similar? I mean, if the virus does escape and infects millions of computers, now I can sue people for using my patented technology to update their PCs.

      No, I think if a patented item can spread itself without the consent of the recipient, then they sure as hell can't be expected to pay for it.

    • by bear_phillips ( 165929 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:46PM (#9220030) Homepage
      f anything, the burden should be placed on the farmers using the licensed seeds to control their plants

      I would guess that Schmeiser could sue the other farm that let the seeds blow onto his crops. The "pollution" of his fields caused him an economic damage. He cant use the seeds now because he is not licensed. In Texas,Kansas etc farmers get paid if an oil line spills onto their crop, I don't see how "seed pollution" should be any different.

    • One obvious answer is to produce strains that don't produce viable seeds. Of course, when Monsanto tried that with corn they were horrible monsters trying to enslave every hungry farmer on the planet. (Never mind that pretty much all corn seed in developed countries is F1 hybrid seed that doesn't generate useful seeds anyway.)

      Or we could declare that all plants and animals produced before 1985 are Natural (as though Noah had Holstein cows on the ark) and everything else is Frankenfood, from which we must re

    • If Monsanto's patented genes are allowed to escape into the wild, then their monopoly privledge is lost and there goes any reason to create such innovations.

      That's just not true. It's not **necessary** to have a monopoly to make a profit. Patents are only a limited-time monopoly anyway, and serve to ensure that innovations will (eventually) make their way into the public domain... Yes a monopoly helps, but it's entirely reasonable for a company to need to compete on things like price, quality, customer service, etc., in the absence of a monopoly. And the company that comes out with an innovation is still going to have "first to market" advantage, and possible "trade secret" status for their innovation. There would still be reasons to innovate even if there were no patents.

      Truth be told, patents today have become more of a hindrance to business than anything. Especially smaller companies / solo inventors without the funding for armies of patent attorneys to research, file, and litigate over these things.
    • In other news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:50PM (#9220084)
      In light of it's recent success, Monsanto plans on suing the Sun, rain and Canadian soil for growing canola plants without proper patent licencing. A spokesman was quoted as saying "The forces of nature must be brought to respect our intelectual property."

      I mean, L Ron Fucking Hubbard, how can you ban the replication of a self-replicating device! I'm sorry but that is just plain asinine. Not all ventures in this world are profitable and if I have to wait a few more years for Government funded research to develop this these things, then it won't bother me a bit.
  • by zentinal ( 602572 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:40PM (#9219964) Homepage
    Would it be legal for someone to come up with a material that only kills Roundup Ready©® plants?
    • by happyfrogcow ( 708359 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:47PM (#9220049)
      ..what, like a crop duster that throws lawyers out of the plane onto the offending crops?

      but seriously...

      probably. if you can be sued for inadvertantly having these crops in your property, then fair use would seem to dictate that you have the right to reverse engineer the product. if you weren't, and only Monsanto were allowed to do so, then they could somehow promote the spreading of their product (the crop) to create a need for a RoundupReady Plant Killer. The situation would be like antivirus companies spreading new computer viruses, and you can only use their av software to eliminate their viruses.
  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:40PM (#9219965)
    The Schmeissers admitted that they were aware it was RoundupReady Canola (having tested it specifically), and then they saved the seeds & sowed it the next year in their fields. THIS is what they were being sued over, not the fact that the seeds that blew onto their property germinated on their own. It was the seed saving, of known patented seeds that was considered an infringement.

    And you may note, if you read the opinion, that the issue addressed was only the patentability of genetically modified seeds.

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:41PM (#9219972) Homepage
    So, wind and bees are now Agents of Intellectual Property Theft.

    Give me a fucking break.
    • by Paulrothrock ( 685079 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:53PM (#9220130) Homepage Journal
      Don't forget that the plants themselves are agents of intellectual property theft because they can reproduce. What happens when a third world farmer plants these seeds, grows a crop, and then saves some of that crop (say, some corn kernels) to plant next season? THAT MAN HAS JUST COMMITTED THEFT. He's just doing what people have done forever, taking advantage of the fact that plants produce seeds that can be planted to make more seeds.

      What happens when some of it spills on the way to market? Since it doesn't look any different than regular corn, gets grown by him next year, totally by accident. It breeds with other, normal corn, and the gene spreads. Will he get sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because he spilled some corn kernels that happened to breed with regular corn? This case allows for a precedent.

      Yes, I realize that this guy has been found to have intentionally planted it, but don't think for a second that Monsanto wouldn't be pushing us down the slippery slope towards a world where every seed has to be picked up off of a field lest they lose profits.

      Patenting things that can copy themselves is lunacy.

  • Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrioNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:41PM (#9219973) Homepage Journal
    Can't move to Canada now if Bush is reelected. Is Russia really the land of the free now? allofmp3.com hasn't been shut down yet.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:41PM (#9219976)
    Somehow, I think the environmentalist interests are lined up on the wrong side of this football.

    The should have been against this ruling. Effectively, this allows the marketers of genetically modified plants to not place any limits on where the seeds containing their genes go. If they naturally blow into another farmers farm and "infect" their crops, then future generations of their crops will by evolution inherit the modification.

    Instead, they seem to be supporting the farmer on the "anything that costs Monsanto profits is good for us" strategy. That's just not right sometimes... any financial loss for Monsanto might slow down their research, but it's certainly not enough to stop the company. The goal should be smart regulation, not elimination...
  • by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:41PM (#9219977) Homepage Journal
    According to this court, the most advanced patentable life form is higher than canola but lower than a mouse. We will therefore need another ruling before we know if Supreme Court Justices are patentable or not.
  • by Paulrothrock ( 685079 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:42PM (#9219984) Homepage Journal
    Monsanto Sues Itself

    Frankenfood giant Monsanto sued itself today in what can only be described as absolute lunacy.

    Claiming that the genetically modified corn it produced can reproduce itself without human assistance, Monsanto has sued itself for intellectual property infringement under the DMCA.

    "It's clear that the corn is a decryption device because it can take the code we gave it and illegally copy itself," said Monsanto's legal head Hebert R. Pufinstuf. "The fact that this deprives us of profits leaves us only one recourse; we must sue ourselves for the profits lost by producing reproducing corn."

  • by elwell642 ( 754833 ) <hallmant AT dm DOT org> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:42PM (#9219985)
    May 21, 2021: AdmrlTaco writes "The Supreme Court of Canada says that you're liable if a human clone with a patented gene infects your property, citing Monsanto vs Schmeiser."
    • Date: January 12, 2022.

      Canadian Supreme court upholds $25,000,000 against rape victim for patent infringement.

      Jane Doe was raped on May 12, 2021 by Andrew Luster, VI. This rape caused Doe to become Pregnant with Luster's child. Since Luster was generically enhanced, and the enhancement was patented, this caused the Doe baby and the process used by Doe to create this child to infringe on Luster's patent.

      The court was not convinced that Luster was himself liable for the patent violation or gave consent to

  • "Organic" crops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:42PM (#9219988)
    Farmers in the UK are going to have to be very careful over this one. "Organically" produced crops have a premium price here and one of the requirements to be classified as organic is no GM. If a neighbouring farmer's GM crop gets into an organic farmer's crop, there could well be financial penalties if the source of the contamination can be proven.

  • Muahahaha (Score:5, Funny)

    by Experiment 626 ( 698257 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:42PM (#9219989)

    This has given me an idea for my next evil ploy for world domination:

    1. Develop highly contageous but otherwise harmless airborne bacterial stain
    2. Patent its genetic sequence
    3. Release into the wild
    4. Sit back and collect royalty payments from everyone using my technology

    *insane cackling*

  • GPL (Score:5, Funny)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <aaaaaNO@SPAMSPAM.yahoo.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:43PM (#9219997) Journal
    heh reminds me of software accidentally infected with GPL code
  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:44PM (#9220009)
    Something that is specifically designed to self replicate, does EXACTLY what it is meant to do and the person who owns the land and air it happens on is the one sued? Backwards thinking, if you ask me.

    Lets say, I make a robot that makes an exact replica of itself from simple nuts and bolts. The way it makes a replica of itself is patented. One day that robot escapes and makes 100 copies of itself over at the local hardware store. Does that mean THEY are liable for my ineptness? I can sue them?

    In my mind, it should be the other way around, the guy who had this patented crop end up on his land should be able to sue the patent holders for screwing up his property.
    • You are mistake about the case. It was not whether or not he should pay for seeds blown on to his crop, but whether he acquired these seeds illegally or not. His crop was about 95% Monsanto wheat. That's why he lost.
  • For you city folk... (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0xA ( 71424 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:44PM (#9220012)
    Canola is the very definition of hearty crop. It is a 3 foot high plant with yellow flowers and once it is established in an area it is almost impossible to get rid of. One of my earliest memories is listeneing to my dad complain about what the canola field across the road did to our lawn. I have absolutely no doubt that this poor guy never touched "Roundup Ready" seed in his life, he didn't have to.
    • Canola is the very definition of hearty crop. It is a 3 foot high plant with yellow flowers and once it is established in an area it is almost impossible to get rid of.

      Heh, this reminds me of when I was working as a research assistant at a state department of agriculture station. We were clearing a field to plant bok choy, to test it as a possible crop to be grown in my state. The field had been growing belgian endive the previous few seasons. To get rid of the endive left over from the year before t

  • Offspring licencing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by manganese4 ( 726568 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:45PM (#9220020)
    So if we ever get to the point of inserting modfied DNA into the human genome to "cure" mutations that exist in family lines, will parents have to pay royalties in order to have children? Will it be on a child by child basis or will it be based on the number of attempts at insemmination? If you have a low sperm or egg count, will you get a discount?
  • by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:46PM (#9220033) Homepage
    I've yet to see a more trollish headline...

    Regardless of how you feel about this case, this guy wasn't caught with a few plants that had blown into his field. He was collecting the seeds from the patented plant and planting them himself.

    Personally, I think (shudder) Monsanto deserved to win this case. The farmer was infringing on Monsanto's patent, and this case really is as simple as that.
    • by Zach Fine ( 12869 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:59PM (#9220187) Homepage
      FWIW, Percy Schmeiser denies deliberately planting Monsanto seed, and states that Monsanto is lying outright about the percentage of his crops that were contaminated:

      http://www.percyschmeiser.com/Monsanto%20Lying.htm [percyschmeiser.com]

      He said, she said?
  • by phliar ( 87116 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:47PM (#9220045) Homepage
    Just when it looks like the patent mess can't get any weirder, it does. I'm just waiting for some Tuttle/Buttle prosecution that's upheld.

    Although in the USA, the day may be closer than we think: we have the Great and Wonderful Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In response to DNA evidence that cleared a man on death row, he said that mere innocence is no grounds to overturn a judgement.

  • Human Patents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amcox ( 588540 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:49PM (#9220075)
    So what happens when human genetic engeneering comes to fruition and a company owns the genes that you have in your body? Will you then be sued for having a child if the patented genes show up in his or her genome? Or will the child itself be brought to court as a being whose very existance violates intellectual property laws?

    While this does seem a little alarmist, it pays to consider the extremes of our laws and policies before those extremes are reached. It would be a great failing of our legistative and legal system if such a case ever even came close to actuality.
  • by mcg1969 ( 237263 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:52PM (#9220100)
    One important tidbit from this story that the poster failed to mention was that this ruling also eliminated the payment of damages, because the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant received any additional profit as a result of the use of the patented seeds.

    I quote: Since there was no evidence that he sprayed Roundup herbicide to reduce the weeks [sic], the majority said, there is no way to conclude that he gained any financial advantage.
    • Correct, this was a case where he was liable for zero.

      This almost sounds like a situation the anti-anything-Monsanto-does forces dreamed up because if they won they would have created another source of "major brand of weedkiller ready" seed that would have zeroed out the worth of the Roundup Ready Canola product's patent instantly. If they lost, oh well, at least they financial damage to them is matched by Monsanto because they each had to pay their own legal fees.

      Better yet, this situation made Monsanto
  • by canwaf ( 240401 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:53PM (#9220116) Homepage Journal

    I followed this case quite closely. Despite our highest court ruling in favour of Monsanto, all it would take is this to become an issue in our upcoming federal election (will be called this Sunday), and our patent law will be changed. Once the law is changed, the Monsanto case's precedent will be tossed aside, and we will get back on the right track.

    Our (Canada's) patent law is quite out of date, it does not address the issues regarding patenting of genome, plants, organisms, and other living matter. Once it is brought up to date (not when, it would be political suicide for all parties not to protect farmers like Schmeiser), we will get things right.

    All parties which are running in every riding have to deal with this the correct way.

    - The new Conservative Party [conservative.ca] of Canada will stand to loose grassroots support if they do not protect the rights of farmers to save seed. Although I wouldn't vote for them because they have yet to release their platform... shuuush... they don't want people to know that yet.

    - The Liberal Party [liberal.ca] of Canada will stand to loose support in Ontario where Schmeiser was situated, although it is slipping because the provincial government did a 180 in the first budget.

    - The NDP [www.ndp.ca] hates GE food, says there is no viable market for the stuff, it should be labelled, etc etc. They would definitely protect the rights of the farmer to save the seed.

    - And the Green Party [greenparty.ca]. This is a given, they don't like GE foods, they don't like GE anything, because it destroys biodiversity.

    This is just a temporary setback. The justices here did not fully comprehend the severity of their decision, but they were forced to work within the framework of the laws given to them by Parliament in 1985. Things have changed, and this act of Parliament will be apart of our next election, and will be dealt with the next government.

  • Sick and twisted (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dark Bard ( 627623 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:53PM (#9220121)
    Isn't that like a rapist billing the rape victim for sexual favors? Or an oil company having a pipeline burst and flood a farmer's field so they charge the farmer for the oil rather than clean up the mess? In what sick and twisted Universe does this make any sense? Justice isn't blind it's a drooling moron.
  • by sekensirazu ( 581164 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:55PM (#9220143)
    It's refreshing to see slashdotters responding (for the most part) on the obvious absurdity of this situation.

    IM(not so)HO, Monsanto is crap.

    Their Roundup Ready agreement, required for people to use their seed, includes the following provisions:

    1) a $5/lb. "technology fee" for using the seed.
    2) the right for Monsanto to come onto your property, unannounced, and investigate your crops for three or so years after you start using their seed.
    3) a ridiculous liability for any damage due to violations of the agreement. The farmer is liable for 10s of times of damage actually caused. I think it is 100, but I'm not 100% sure on this point. This includes accidental cross-pollination of others' crops.

    (What's even funnier is that research shows these crops neither require fewer pesticides nor produce greater yields.)

    Additionally, because of the new trade regulations and the exporting of Western-style trade and intellectual property agreements across the world, six corporations (Cargill, Monsanto, etc...) virtually control the world grain trade. For example, most countries now, including the UK, there are seed registries from which a farmer must choose seed to grow. Trading of seed, a long-time tradition and promotion of biodiversity, is now illegal in the countries that subscribe to these agreements.

    Also, after a "mysterious" adulteration too big for any one farmer to orchestrate in India, millions of livelihoods were lost because the government outlawed traditional mustard seed in favor of imported oils... All the while Monsanto is also engineering seeds that genetically terminate after one generation of crops, which would bankrupt the farmers in poorer countries bound by corporate legislation.

    In short, corporations have seriously fucked entire local economies with gestapo policies like the one this article is reporting. It's less than funny, and a little bit more than serious.

    If you want more information on this topic, I suggest Vandana Shiva's Stolen Harvest. She is a leading activist on these issues, and the book is a fascinating read.

  • by sane? ( 179855 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @04:59PM (#9220186)
    Monsanto were sued successfully for releasing a biohazard into the environment without any viable means to control it.

    A spokesman said "We're really sorry, what the hell were we thinking, we have no idea what the long term effects of this are, let alone being able to sensible make profit from it. We're sorry; really sorry."

    A judge was heard to remark "You ignorant bastards. How dare you play stupid corporate games with the livelihood and future of substanical numbers of people? You bastards are going to fry."

    When did I fall through the wormhole ?

  • by untermensch ( 227534 ) * on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:01PM (#9220204)
    I very strongly disagree with the idea of being able to patent genetically altered crops, and I'm very suspicious about the motives of companies like Monsanto, but Schmeiser is obviously lying here. A few seeds from your neighbours field blowing across the road can't grow into the volume of crop that he had.

    I'm from the same province as Schmeiser and I heard about him long before this whole Monsanto business. A friend of mine worked on a construction project around the area where Shmeiser lives, and Schmeiser was part of a coalition that was concerned about the effects of this project. He was completely uninformed about the entire project, and was an embarassment and liability to the people that were on the same side of the argument as him. Also, if you've ever seen any of the TV interviews with other farmers from around his area you can watch them roll their eyes and shake their heads in digust as soon as his name is mentioned.
  • by jdunlevy ( 187745 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:02PM (#9220221) Homepage
    ... for Monsanto to be sure their seeds "accidentally" end up on as many fields as possible.
  • This makes no sense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:07PM (#9220270)
    Doesn't this place Canada's canola industry in dire jeopardy?

    Suppose some "radical" activist takes a bunch of patent-encumbered seeds and drops them from an airplane on all the canola fields in Canada. Now, every farm owes massive royalties to Monsanto. There are three possible resolutions to this situation: 1) Monsanto doesn't try to collect (improbable); 2) Monsanto tries to collect and bankrupts every farm in Canada, ruining the entire industry; 3) Monsanto tries to collect, and Canada is forced to provide a subsidy to pay for the settlements, in order to preserve the canola industry.

    In any case, the whole deal would be completely fucked. It appears that Canada has just massively shot itself in the foot.

    So, anybody got an airplane I can borrow?

  • by cybergrue ( 696844 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:10PM (#9220296)
    What a horrable decision. The end result of this will be lots of lawsuit filed over pollen. Consider this scenario. Farmer A plans genetically modified seeds. Mosanto comes allong and tests all the neibours fields and finds (what they claim are) genetically modified material in farmer B's crop. Monsanto then threatens to sue farmer B for using their intelectual property. End result, Farmer B has to destroy his crop. Farmer B then sues Farmer A for contaminating his crops using previous rulings dealing with responsibility for damages caused by livestock. Farmer A then sues Monsanto for making it immposible for him to controll the pollination of the plant. Cases drag on for years and both farmers go bankrupt.

    btw, if some of you think the next logical step is that Monsanto buys both farmers land and start their own company farm, think again, because in a lot of places in Canada (Saskatchewan in particular where the origional case happened), it is illegal for corperations to own farms.

    It would not surprise me that the issues raised by this case become so severe, that the Supreme court eventuially overrules its own decision just to restore sanity to the legal system. Here is just a partial list of issues that are raised by this decision.

    Do laws and legal precidents dealing with damage caused by livestock extend to patened plants?

    Is the "I didn't know" defence become legitimate if it takes a highly trained expert and millions of dollars of equipment to determine if the plant has been pateneded or not?

    What happenes if a natural plant is found with the same gene sequence?

    what if someone cross breeds a plant with the same gene sequence?

    Who is responsible when cross polination occurs in the wild? The owner of the nearest source of the patened plants, or the company who created the seed for not ensuring that is can reproduce normally?

    What I can see hapening is that we will get more and more of these restricive IP laws and court cases untill people start complaning too loudly for the clueless politicians to ignore. The poly will then say, "but its out of our hands because its international law and trade restrictions will be placed on us unless we comply." A few years after that, some country will decide that the IP regeme is worse then any ammount of sanctions and change their IP laws to something sane. Shortly after that most other countries will fallow suit.

  • by neurojab ( 15737 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:14PM (#9220341)
    >Roundup Ready canola seeds

    FYI... There is no such thing as a canola plant or, by extension, canola seeds.

    The term "canola" is a bastardization of "Canadian Oil", used by canadian growers in place of the less consumer-friendly name of the actual crop "rapeseed". The crop isn't refered to as canola until the oil is extracted.

    So what you have here is "Roundup Ready Rapeseed", which sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
    • by Zarquil ( 187770 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @06:13PM (#9220892)
      The difference truly comes down to more than just sensitivity over the name "rapeseed." In fact, rapeseed is still commonly used.

      The true difference between "canola" and "rapeseed" lies in the amount of erucic acid in the oil from the seed. This makes a very significant difference to the farmer.

      Canola, grown as a food oil source, has a very low quantity (less than 2%) of erucic acid. Rapeseed grown for industrial purposes may have up to 45% erucic acid instead.

      How about a better source than me?

      Ag Marketing Resource Center [agmrc.org] has a good explanation.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:16PM (#9220355) Homepage
    "Mr. Schmeiser, 74, cast himself as a farmer of the old school who habitually used seeds from previous crops to plant new canola....

    He has steadfastly insisted that the seed somehow blew onto his fields from passing trucks or from neighbouring farms...

    He said he was astonished to discover that a great deal of the canola in those areas survived his spraying, suggesting that had somehow acquired a resistance to the herbicide. He used portions of the seed from those areas for his crop the following year."

    He claims it blew off a truck (kind of like buying a DVD player that "fell off the truck"). Second, he took the seeds from the plants, which was miraculously resistent to Round Up, and then resowed his field with it the next year. 95% of his 1000 or so acres were found to contain this Monsato-frankenstein-canola.

    Not quite as simple as Monsato finding a few plants in one field, and sueing him. He probalby woudln't have been guilty at the end of the first year, but the second year, when he re-used the seed, he was.
  • by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:20PM (#9220402)
    It's not only seeds of bioengineered plants.

    With many proprietary seeds, you are not permitted to save some of the harvested crop and plant them the next year unless you have the permission of the company owning those rights.

    Do a web search on "Plant Variety Protection Act"

  • Percy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cosine5000 ( 781922 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:22PM (#9220422)
    Before I say this and start an attack on me let me preface with; I hate Monsanto, they are pretty much pure evil, I come from a farm near Percy's and have had to deal with Monsanto my whole life. That having been said... Percy Schmeiser is full of it, it's really a shame that this case was the first one to test these laws as it was a waste. Let me tell you what Percy did, he GREW Roundup Ready Rapeseed WITHOUT a contract to do so. Monstanto found out (through really really nefarious ways, more on those if anyone cares to know) and nailed him. He said that the seed must have BLOWN into his crop from the neighbor... the only problem there is it's a little tough to believe that an entire field's worth of RRR blew over at once, and planted itself underground, into nice, neat rows... and just enough for that one field with ZERO spillover into ANY adjacent field. I've seen the field, I know Percy, he's nice, if a little odd, but is totally full of it. I sheeepishly add once again... Monstanto sucks. Cosine
  • by Killswitch1968 ( 735908 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:31PM (#9220518)
    Quite simply a farmer claims tht Monsanto's seeds had spread to his farms without his knowledge. The case was not whether or not he should pay for seeds blown on to his crop, but whether he acquired these seeds illegally or not.
    His crop was about 95% Monsanto wheat. That's why he lost.
  • by Salvo ( 8037 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:40PM (#9220617)
    The Good news is that here in Australia, the Populus have rejected GM Canola from Monsanto.
    http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/news/htm l/gm_food.c fm
    The Federal "Liberal" (Actually Conservative) Government want GM foods so they can get thier Kickbacks, or whatever, The National Party (Country), who are in Coalition with the Liberal Party, want GM Foods so they can have more say in what the Liberal Party Do. The Federal Branch of the Labor Party are against GM, simply because they are the Federal Opposition, and therefore must oppose the Federal Government.
    Meanwhile, the State Labor Governments, and non-alligned Local Governments have put Local Bans on Monsanto GM Canola, so even though the Federal Govenment wants it, there is no State, Shire or City in which to legally grow it!
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jafac ( 1449 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:43PM (#9220650) Homepage
    Even if you DO find Monsanto Canola on your land, how the fuck do you get rid of it? It's fucking immune to Round Up!
    • There's a whole slew of other herbicides that can be employed.

      To be honest, most Roundup (glyphosate) resistance is a byproduct of installing another gene. What happens is that the plants are transformed for one reason or another, and a linked gene for Roundup resistance is added.

      So, when you try to transform, say, 1000 plants, you take the progeny and grow them on media with glyphosate in them, or spray the seedlings with glyphosate or whatever. The ones that survive *should* have the other gene along

  • by sudog ( 101964 ) on Friday May 21, 2004 @06:16PM (#9220907) Homepage
    According to the actual Supreme Court decision, which you can read at the following location:

    Here at Lexum [umontreal.ca]

    Tests of their 1998 canola crop revealed that 95-98 per cent was Roundup Ready Canola.

    I hardly think that seed "infected" the farmer's crop. If more than 90% of the Canola seeds were genetically modified, it seems obvious to me (as it was to the courts) that the farmer knew or ought to have known that the seeds he was using were the roundup-ready variety created by Monsanto.

    I was shocked to consider the possibility that the Canadian Supreme Courts (whose opinions I find I've almost always agreed with after reading the decision) would do such a thing, and was relieved to find that Slashdot was, yet again, being Slashdot and over-sensationalising the issue.

    I would also like to note that the patent does NOT cover the plant, only the specific gene involved, and that, according to the decision, the farmer may have had available to him a useful defense of innocent intention. Read:

    Thus, a defendant in possession of a patented invention in commercial circumstances may rebut the presumption of use by bringing credible evidence that the invention was neither used, nor intended to be used, even by exploiting its stand-by utility.

    Seems obvious to me.

    The cool part was that the farmer didn't have to pay Monsanto's significant legal expenses.

    Move to Canada--we're free here, and our courts don't fuck us unless we fuck someone else first!
  • by Nagash ( 6945 ) on Saturday May 22, 2004 @01:53AM (#9223406) Homepage
    Some quotes from the actual decision [umontreal.ca]:
    • Schmeiser never purchased Roundup Ready Canola nor did he obtain a licence to plant it. Yet, in 1998, tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of his 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. The origin of the plants is unclear. (from The Salient Facts, paragraph 6)
    • The trial judge found that "none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality" ultimately present in Schmeiser's crop (Mosanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (2001), 202 F.T.R. 78, at para. 118). (further along in the same paragraph)
    • Tests of their 1998 canola crop revealed that 95-98 per cent was Roundup Ready Canola. The respondents brought an action against the appellants for patent infringement. The trial judge found the patent to be valid and allowed the action, concluding that the appellants knew or ought to have known that they saved and planted seed containing the patented gene and cell and that they sold the resulting crop also containing the patented gene and cell. (from the beginning of the decision)
    • In reaching this conclusion, we emphasize from the outset that we are not concerned here with the innocent discovery by farmers of "blow-by" patented plants on their land or in their cultivated fields. Nor are we concerned with the scope of the respondents' patent or the wisdom and social utility of the genetic modification of genes and cells - a practice authorized by Parliament under the Patent Act and its regulations. (from Introduction, paragraph 2)

    The write-up is inflammatoy and flat-out wrong. Whether you are for or against genetically engineered/modifed foods, please get the facts right and don't mislead people about a very important legal decision.


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