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NEWS ADMIN

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

DATE

31/03/2001

NEWS PROVIDER

Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani

NEWS SOURCE

NULL

CATEGORY

HEADLINE

COURT RULES FARMER INFRINGED ON GM CANOLA PATENT
COURT RULES FARMER INFRINGED ON GM CANOLA PATENT

TORONTO, March 29 (Reuters) - A 70-year-old Canadian farmer lost hisDavid and Goliath battle over genetically modified crops to biotech giantMonsanto Canada Inc. on Thursday, and could face a bill for hundredsthousands of dollars in damages and court costs.A federal court in the Prairie province of Saskatchewan ruled thatPercy Schmeiser, a farmer from the tiny hamlet of Bruno, had infringedMonsanto's patent rights by growing and selling genetically modifiedcanola without a license.Schmeiser did not dispute that the canola was growing on his farm, buthe argued the seeds had blown in from neighboring fields or from passingfarm trucks.It was the first lawsuit of its kind, and the company was delightedwith the outcome."We view this as a very important decision and in some ways vindicationthat our patent has been upheld and that was really what this case was allabout for us," said Trish Jordan, a spokeswoman for Monsanto Canada, aunit of U.S.-based Monsanto Co. "For us it's good news obviously. It meansbusiness as usual.The court ordered Schmeiser to pay an initial C$15,450 ($9,900) ingeneral damages and gave both sides three weeks to make submissions onadditional costs and damages.Monsanto has said it is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars indamages, while Schmeiser says he already faces a C$160,000 legal bill andhas spent C$40,000 of his own money on the fight against Monsanto. Hefears he could now lose his farm."It's such an important issue and if I can do something for mygrandkids and my children, I don't want to leave them a legacy of land andfood with poisons," Schmeiser told Reuters earlier this week."That gives me the motivation to work on this and to give my time," hesaid.Schmeiser, a fifth-generation farmer, had argued that the modifiedcanola seeds landed in his fields by accident, driven by the wind fromneighboring farms that grow Monsanto's canola -- which is geneticallyengineered to resist its Roundup herbicide.About 30,000 western Canadian farmers hold a license to grow RoundupReady canola.Schmeiser has called the plants an "environmental nuisance" and hiscourt statement said that Monsanto had obtained a patent for the "illicitpurpose of spreading a noxious plant to spread by natural means to landsof innocent parties."He became something of an international folk hero for standing up forfarmers' rights.Monsanto requires farmers using the patented canola to pay C$15 peracre for the right to grow the oilseed, a Canadian variant of rapeseed.Proponents and opponents of biotechnology have keenly watched thislegal saga, which many believe could set precedents on the use ofgenetically modified organisms, the rights of companies to patent genesand the ability of farmers to protect plant varieties they have cultivatedover generations for their own use.Under Thursday's court ruling, Schmeiser is prohibited from plantingseeds kept from his 1997 and 1998 crops.The farmer says he is considering a counter-suit against the companyfor damaging varieties of canola he developed.($1=$1.57 Canadian)