martes, mayo 25, 2004

GRAIN Commentary on the Schmeiser case:

Percy Schmeiser's long legal battle against Monsanto has reached an end. On 21 May 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in a tight 5-4 decision, that the farmer was guilty of violating Monsanto's patent on a gene for resistance to glyphosate ("Roundup", a broad-spectrum herbicide). The Court determined that patent rights on a gene extend to the living organism in which it is found and, consequently, that saving and planting seed containing a patented gene without authorisation from the patent holder is illegal.

This ruling follows a ground breaking decision by the same court, in the Harvard oncomouse case, to reject patents on higher life forms. The judges were equally aware that no Canadian government has put forward a policy or law that prevents farmers from saving seed on their own farm, although the Plant Breeders' Rights Act makes swapping or selling seed harvested from protected varieties without authorisation illegal. Canadian farmers have a long and strong tradition of seed saving, especially in the western prairies where Schmeiser is from. Canola, the crop Schmeiser grew, is itself a product of farmer seed saving, farmer selection and publically funded research. It's an example of what plant breeding can accomplish without patents. It's also an example of why co-existence between GM (genetically modified) and non-GM crops is impossible. Today, all of the canola acreage in Western Canada is contaminated with Monsanto's patented "Roundup-Ready" (RR) gene.

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