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Schmeiser loses to Monsanto, but he doesn't have to pay biotech giant; Other CropChoice news

(Friday, May 21, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- CBC news: It was billed by some as a classic David-and-Goliath confrontation between a Saskatchewan family farmer and biotech giant Monsanto Canada - a case of the rights of the small farmer to continue a traditional way of farming. Others saw it as theft - a blatant attempt to take advantage of years of research and development of a better product, without paying for it.

For seven years, Percy Schmeiser has argued that seeds from Monsanto's patented genetically-modified canola landed on his 1,400 acre farm near Bruno, east of Saskatoon, by accident. Monsanto has altered the plant's genes to make the canola resistant to Roundup, a Monsanto weed killer. Monsanto patented the gene and the process of inserting it into the seed.

Percy Schmeiser Farmers usually use seeds from one year's crop to plant the next year's crop. But when they buy Roundup Ready canola from Monsanto, they have to agree to buy new seed every year. Monsanto says that's the only way they can recoup the money they've spent designing a better plant - the only way they can fund future research that will allow farmers to improve their crop yield.

Schmeiser argued that a company can't patent a plant - and he relied heavily on a previous case involving the question of whether higher life forms can be patented.

In the "Harvard Mouse" case, Canada's top court reinforced efforts to keep higher forms of life unpatented when it ruled that Harvard did not have a patent on its famous "OncoMouse," designed to quickly develop cancer. It took Harvard 17 years to develop the mouse. Canada stood alone on this issue, after the United States and Europe granted Harvard a patent.

Lower courts rejected Schmeiser's claim that the canola landed on his fields by accident, but didn't deal with the deeper issue of whether Monsanto can control use of a plant because it has patented a gene in the plant.

But Canada's highest court sided with Monsanto - in a five to four ruling. The court did agree with Schmeiser that the plant is a higher life form and cannot be patented, but said the patent does apply to the gene... http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=2574

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