It’s now up to the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether a Saskatchewan farmer violated the patent rights of biotechnology giant Monsanto, after the company’s genetically modified canola seed was found growing there.
Percy Schmeiser, 73, described the five-year legal battle as a classic David and Goliath struggle. The Supreme Court heard the case Jan. 20 but has reserved a decision.
Past court rulings have held Schmeiser liable for more than $170,000 CAD in legal damages and costs.
In 2001, the Federal Court of Appeal found that Schmeiser had infringed on the Monsanto’s patent rights when its genetically engineered canola was found on his farm in 1998.
Schmeiser claims the seeds were blown onto his fields from passing trucks or neighboring fields since most canola farmers have chosen to plant Monsanto’s seeds. However, Monsanto argued successfully that Schmeiser violated its patent protection by using seed, designed to be herbicide resistant, without paying for it.
The appeal court upheld a previous ruling by the Federal Court Trial Division that Monsanto’s patent rights had been violated. The court ordered Schmeiser to pay $19,000 in damages and $153,00 in court costs.
The Catholic farmer says he and his wife have spent almost 50 years developing their own canola, but that Monsanto’s seeds contaminated it.
“We no longer have pure canola seed left. It’s all contaminated by GMOs [genetically modified organisms],” he told reporters, according to Canadian Catholic News.
“No one should have the right to introduce something into the environment that destroys the property of others,” said Schmeiser, who traveled throughout the world, to try to gain support for his final challenge.
“Who can patent life, and who owns life – whether it’s seeds, plants, animals and so on?” asks Schmeiser.