Did Monsanto wrongly sue this farmer for accidentally growing patented GMO canola?

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Percy Field
Percy Schmeiser

Often, the first thing I hear is “isn’t that the case where someone got sued because seed blew onto his field?” I was recently reminded that it was 20 years ago that the case [Monsanto V. Schmeiser] went to trial …. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case remains the leading authority on the validity and enforceability of patents directed to genes and cells of plants, providing agribusiness with protection for the significant investment to bring new technologies to market.

[Editor’s note: Trent Horne is an intellectual property attorney in Canada.]

Roundup Ready canola was first made commercially available to Canadian farmers in 1996 …. Monsanto alleged that Percy Schmeiser, a farmer in Bruno Saskatchewan, obtained the seed without a license in 1997, grew a few acres of it, and used the progeny of that crop to plant 1,000 acres of commercial grade Roundup Ready canola in 1998. Mr. Schmeiser …. said that the seed must have blown onto his land or got there through some other means beyond his knowledge or control.

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In a decision released the following March, Justice MacKay found for Monsanto. He concluded that none of the sources suggested by Mr. Schmeiser could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola on his fields.

The trial decision was upheld by …. the Supreme Court of Canada in a 5-4 decision released in 2004 …. [M]any observers remained unconvinced, and continued to support Mr. Schmeiser. Opposition to GMOs continued, with the Schmeiser case acting as a lighting rod for the issue.

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