Score One for Monsanto

A Canadian farmer finds himself on the losing end of a legal battle over genetically modified crops.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser has lost his landmark legal battle with chemical giant Monsanto. A federal judge in Saskatoon ruled on Mar. 29 that Schmeiser had violated the company’s property rights by growing and selling a proprietary strain of canola without a license. Schmeiser maintains that he did not do so knowingly. (See the MotherJones.com article “The Trouble with Percy” from December 2000.)

Genetic tests showed that Schmeiser was growing Monsanto’s patented “Roundup Ready” variety, which has been genetically engineered to resist the company’s signature herbicide, Roundup. Schmeiser insists that the seeds landed in his fields by accident; in court, he argued that he hadn’t profited by selling the canola, hadn’t known it was a proprietary strain, and hadn’t wanted it there in the first place.

Under the decision, Schmeiser must pay Monsanto about $15,000 Canadian in licensing costs for using the patented crop on his fields, and up to about $100,000 Canadian for selling the canola crops he harvested. The 70-year-old farmer says he’s already spent $200,000 Canadian — some of it donated to the cause by anti-GMO activists — on the legal feud and now fears he won’t be able to keep his farm.

“It will take totally all of my wife’s and myself’s retirement funds that we’ve worked for all our life,” Schmeiser told reporters after hearing the verdict. In addition, Schmeiser is barred from planting the seeds he’s saved, a farming technique he’s used for decades to refine his crop.

Monsanto representatives said the verdict was fair protection of their patent and would allow them to continue investing time and research to bring new products to market in Canada.

Schmeiser says he’s considering both appealing the verdict and filing a countersuit against Monsanto for polluting his canola’s genetic stock.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate