Intellectual property

Intellectual property
  • Traditionally, farmers in all nations saved their own seed from year to year. Allowing to follow this practice with genetically modified seed would result in seed developers losing the ability to profit from their breeding work.
  • Therefore, genetically-modified seed are subject to licensing by their developers in contracts that are written to prevent farmers from following this traditional practice.
  • Many objections to genetically modified food crops are based on this change.
  • Enforcement of patents on genetically modified plants is often contentious, especially because of gene flow.
  • In 1998, 95-98 percent of about 10 km2 planted with canola by Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser were found to contain Monsanto Company's patented Roundup Ready gene although Schmeiser had never purchased seed from Monsanto.
  • The initial source of the plants was undetermined, and could have been through either gene flow or intentional theft. However, the overwhelming predominance of the trait implied that Schmeiser must have intentionally selected for it.
  • The court determined that Schmeiser had saved seed from areas on and adjacent to his property where Roundup had been sprayed, such as ditches and near power poles.
  • Although unable to prove direct theft, Monsanto sued Schmeiser for piracy since he knowingly grew Roundup Ready plants without paying royalties(Ibid).
  • The case made it to the Canadian Supreme Court, which in 2004 ruled 5 to 4 in Monsanto‚Äôs favour.
  • The dissenting judges focused primarily on the fact that Monsanto's patents covered only the gene itself and glyphosate resistant cells, and failed to cover transgenic plants in their entirety.
  • All of the judges agreed that Schmeiser would not have to pay any damages since he had not benefited from his use of the genetically modified seed.
  • In response to criticism, Monsanto Canada's Director of Public Affairs stated that "It is not, nor has it ever been Monsanto Canada's policy to enforce its patent on Roundup Ready crops when they are present on a farmer's field by accident...Only when there has been a knowing and deliberate violation of its patent rights will Monsanto act."

Last modified: Monday, 2 April 2012, 11:12 PM