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The Courts Government Patents News

Monsanto Plant Patent Case Winds On 268

Posted by michael
from the blowing-in-the-wind dept.
srw writes "A follow-up to a slashdot story from two years ago: The Supreme Court of Canada is willing to hear the case of Percy Schmeiser -- a Saskatchewan farmer accused of violating Monsanto's IP by growing their patented canola. This article contains more background."
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Monsanto Plant Patent Case Winds On

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  • by Caractacus Potts (74726) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:46PM (#5982766)
    Clearly, they planted the evidence...
    • by infoape (31685) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:47PM (#5982773)
      perhaps there was a mole
    • by silentbozo (542534) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:52PM (#5982805) Journal
      Actually, the farmer says he never bought Mansanto seeds, the plants were growing in a ditch by the road, and that the plants contaminated the farmer's conventional canola (costing him the years crop.) If I were the farmer, I would have sued Mansanto for crop contamination.

      Instead, it seems if some disgruntled seed saleman is pissed that you didn't want to buy their patented seed, he can just plant some on your property, and sue you for the cost after the fact. Now that's insane.
      • by poor_boi (548340)
        That's not insane: that's the law! ;-)

        But seriously folks, better read the "pissed off seed company's" side of the story before getting up on the soap box.

        I bet that farmer couldn't wait to get his eager little sweaty palms on that "Round-up Ready" canola strain. It sounds soooo tasty.

        Eat less GMO :-)

      • by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:02PM (#5982848)
        That's what makes this such a difficult case. If the court rules for Monsanto, what's to stop a seed company from genetically engineering an especially virulent form of a crop, which spreads like wildfire and eliminates all other form of that crop from the face of the planet. Soon, a few companies could control the entire world's food supply and you couldn't even have a vegetable garden in your own backyard.

        On the other hand, if the court rules for the farmer, what's to stop farmers from stealing small amounts of seed from a neighbor who bought the patented crop and growing it for enough years to have a full crop and then claiming that a bird pooped the seeds on their field. This would effectively destroy IP rights of all seed companies.

        Honestly, I don't know what the correct decision here would be. Either result could have disasterous implications.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          The crop is designed to be unable to reproduce, so you have to keep buying seeds every year. The only "transmission" vector would be the initial seeding "blowing over." Granted, this could still happen, but it's not quite the doomsday scenario you present.
          • The crop is designed to be unable to reproduce, so you have to keep buying seeds every year.

            This is not true. Monsanto doesn't use these terminator genes, which is in a way unfortunate since if the plant were designed this way there wouldn't be a problem. This case was specifically about second or third generation Monsanto genes.

            In fact, on one farm in Alberta there has been found a subsequent generation crop that has all three major brands of herbicide resistant gene.

        • Actually, considering the world produces enough food for everyone already (it is just poorly distributed), the right thing to do is for Monsanto to sod off with their Frankenfood which requires heavy use of their own brand very poisonous pestitide RoundUp.
        • by PaulQuinn (171592) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:10PM (#5982891)
          Honestly, I don't know what the correct decision here would be

          OMG!!! You don't know what the correct decision is?????
          Let's see, choose between:

          Noone being allowed to grow a garden
          VS
          The profits of a company

          Holy shit - you must be an American. Only a born and raised money bleeding capitalist would think that is a hard decision. Geez.
        • by Chester K (145560) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:13PM (#5982900) Homepage
          This would effectively destroy IP rights of all seed companies.

          Those are the risks you take when you try to patent life.
          • If the court rules for the farmer, it will destroy the biotech industry. Where is the incentive to genetically engineer anything useful if you can only ever sell one of them? Without the major companies, who's going to make the breakthroughs that require millions of dollars of equipment and research support?
        • by caseih (160668) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:27PM (#5982996)
          Your point about a few companies controlling the world's food supply is very valid and should be of a great concern to all of us. There is a disturbing trend among of the companies that genetically alter seed to desire to produce grains (canola is an oilseed not a grain, but it still applies) that are sterile and do not reproduce. This could be seen as a good thing, since genetically modified plants then cannot "escape" into nature. However, as growing the GMO grains becomes more and more prevailant and traditional strains no longer grown (either because they don't produce as well, or are too tall or whatever), then that makes farmers have to pay for their seed every year, rather than hold back a portion and replant like they used to. Even more effected by this are third world countries who will be completely at the mercy of these companies. They are really worried the trends and "progression" being made by companies like Monsanto.

          Just as Palladium, patents, and digital restrictions managenent do not bode well computer and software users, these types of genetic patents are no less negative. I personally have nothing against GMO food and technologies, but I think we should seriously consider the impacts of patenting and controlling such technologies.

          I hope the courts rule in favor of the farmer. Until about 5-10 years ago in Canada, there were no IP rights for seed companies. Such rights are contrived and artificial, I believe.

          Michael
        • by berzerke (319205) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:28PM (#5983000) Homepage

          ...Either result could have disasterous implications...



          Actually, only if the court decides in Monsanto's favor will it be a disaster. This isn't some inanimate matter patented, but life. And life will find a way to spread. Once released, if it doesn't die out, it will spread. Look at various insects (killer bees, fire ants, mosquitos).


          • And life will find a way to spread. Once relased, if it doesn't die out, it will spread.

            Well, that's not necessarily true. Species do become extinct. But on the other hand, these genetically-engineered crops are generally designed to survive very well, with resistence to drought, pesticides, etc. So eliminating these may prove more difficult than usual.
        • by Dthoma (593797) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:33PM (#5983028) Journal
          This is only a problem because the plant is patented. Virtually every other plant on earth is "public domain" so there's no problem about those when they grow on someone else's land. Why not just say that it's stupid and irresponsible to try to patent species of plants, not let anyone do it, and then leave the issue be? Companies will have the freedom to create these GM crops (thus placating the GM advocates) but have little incentive to do so since they will be available for free (thus placating the anti-GM campaigners).
        • On the other hand, if the court rules for the farmer, what's to stop farmers from stealing small amounts of seed from a neighbor who bought the patented crop and growing it for enough years to have a full crop and then claiming that a bird pooped the seeds on their field. This would effectively destroy IP rights of all seed companies.

          My understanding of Monsanto seed is that they insert a "terminator gene" which makes any seed sterile. Hence, you cannot grow it for enough years to have a full crop. Yo

        • I wonder how they patent plants?

          If the patent the property of seeds to resist pesticides then it creates a problem when other farmers use some amounts of pesticeds for years and eventually can get seeds more and more resistent to pesticeds. That could be another seeds, different then Monsanto's, just with the same property. And that eventually can come by itself - plants can mutate in time. Too bad, the patents should not cover properties. It's like patenting a physical law.

          If they patent exact DNA then

      • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:44PM (#5983064) Homepage Journal
        Actually, the farmer says he never bought Mansanto seeds, the plants were growing in a ditch by the road, and that the plants contaminated the farmer's conventional canola (costing him the years crop.) If I were the farmer, I would have sued Mansanto for crop contamination.

        It's not quite that straight... Schmeisers story [tv.cbc.ca] (the court documents give both sides pretty completely) is that he was spraying weeds with Roundup(tm) when he noticed that some of the canola in the area (which would have normally been killed by the herbicide) had survived --Finding that to be a bit weird, he sprayed a larger area and found a large patch that seemed to be roundup-resistant.. This appeared to be pretty much the area closest to the road.

        The next summer, the seeds from the quarter section that he had sprayed were used to plant at least one of his quarter sections. This is the crop that Monsanto now claims to own. Part of the problem, however, is that the genetically modified seed has also contaminated the rest of his seed. If Monsanto wins a permanent injunction against Schmeiser ever using their seeds again, he'll not only have to turn over the seeds and profits from the mostly-monsanto patch... He'll also have to turn over any seeds with any monsanto contamination -- effectively, this will mean that he will have to destroy a couple of generations worth of breeding experiments because almost all of his stock now has at least a bit of monsanto seed in it.

        Monsanto's claim was originally that he arranged (barter or sale) to have a monsanto-licensed farmer give him some of their roundup-ready seed (in violation of contract). Schmeiser claimed that it had appeared on his land, and he had the right to do what he wanted to with his crop. The (lower) courts decided that it didn't matter how the seed had landed on his land.. Monsanto had a patent on the seed, and nobody not licensed by them was allowed to use seeds with those genetics.

        This decision could be especially problematic for some farmers because Canola is pretty much a weed. All sorts of farmers anywhere downwind from someone using Monsanto canola is likely to have at least a small proportion of genetically contaminated seed -- they could then have Monsanto going after them, as well.

        • by Sique (173459) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:05PM (#5983151) Homepage
          Monsanto's claim was originally that he arranged (barter or sale) to have a monsanto-licensed farmer give him some of their roundup-ready seed (in violation of contract). Schmeiser claimed that it had appeared on his land, and he had the right to do what he wanted to with his crop. The (lower) courts decided that it didn't matter how the seed had landed on his land.. Monsanto had a patent on the seed, and nobody not licensed by them was allowed to use seeds with those genetics.

          Think this a little further. Think of a second company selling genetically altered canola seed to a farmer, and again some of the seed falls over to a neighbour. But this time this farmer isn't using his own seed but Monsanto's. Then you have a farmer with Monsanto seed contamined by another seed. Which decision should the court make now? Handing over the contamined seed to Monsanto (because it violates Monsanto's patents)? Or handing it over to the other company (because it violates their patents)? Or part it half-by-half and giving 50% to each company? Shall both companies now start to sue each other for violating patents?
          • by silentbozo (542534) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:18PM (#5983210) Journal
            Here's where it gets really screwy - Monsanto is claiming ownership of a genetic sequence which, when grown in conformance with the natural lifecycle of the plant, WILL SPREAD. I don't mean in a laboratory, or an isolated test field, I mean if you throw the seed into a field, little vectors of genetic contaimination (pollen) will spread. You can't get a pure-bred version of the crop, because the plant evidently is sterile in certain situations, but given that the farmer is being charged with having seeds that are partially bred from Monsanto property, it means that the plants can pass on their genetic material to a certain extent.

            So, am I supposed to now make sure your IP doesn't find itself into my materials? How? Am I supposed to test the genetic sequences of ALL the plants that I have? This isn't a case where I'm going out and collecting YOUR IP in order to grow new plants - this is a case where your IP is contaminating my plants as a normal course of operation.

            For example, this would be like a company which writes a computer program, that during the normal course of operations, spawns a virus that infects other programs on your hard drive. One of the programs that it infects is your compiler. Can this company now sue to get revenues for the programs you write and distribute that are compiled with this infected compiler? After all, this infected compiler now incorporates their IP...
            • So, am I supposed to now make sure your IP doesn't find itself into my materials? How? Am I supposed to test the genetic sequences of ALL the plants that I have? This isn't a case where I'm going out and collecting YOUR IP in order to grow new plants - this is a case where your IP is contaminating my plants as a normal course of operation.

              Under the status quo (i.e. the last ruling, by the Federal Court of Appeal) you are under no obligation to test your plants for the presence of any patented genes, and

              • He is not arguing that the plants growing in his fields in 1998 were a case of accidental contamination. He's claiming only that he originally got his hands on the seeds by taking advantage of some accidental contamination.

                This misrepresents the situation. Yes, he knew there were patented genes in the crop, but he was doing what he had done every year for a couple of decades - taking seeds from one year's crop to plant the following year. He believed his own crops were superior to others in the district

            • by BuilderBob (661749) on Sunday May 18, 2003 @03:55AM (#5984646)

              For example, this would be like a company which writes a computer program, that during the normal course of operations, spawns a virus that infects other programs on your hard drive. One of the programs that it infects is your compiler. Can this company now sue to get revenues for the programs you write and distribute that are compiled with this infected compiler? After all, this infected compiler now incorporates their IP...

              Except for the virus part, that's pretty much what the GPL does for you, if you use a GPL'd compiler with GPL libraries (such that your code won't work without those libraries) then you must GPL your code. [slashdot.org] (question 2)

              BB

              • by Fesh (112953)
                Yeah, but the virus part is the crucial distinction because it's what determines the element of choice and control. You use the GPL, the "contamination" is your informed choice. Some company virally infests your computer in a scheme to bleed you dry, you have no control over the situation (you could hardly have been expected to know that the virus was lurking in their software).
        • It's not even like a _farmer_ can be expected to be able to readily identify GM seeds anyway - it could have just been a naturally occuring resistant mutation.

          I can see them now, scurrying way with a seed sample to their subterranian gene sequencing plant (all farmers have one of these, didn't you know?) and cackling madly as they identify the seeds they found and work out the best way to rip of Monsato's IP.
      • >Instead, it seems if some disgruntled seed
        >saleman is pissed that you didn't want to buy
        >their patented seed, he can just plant some on
        >your property, and sue you for the cost after >the fact. Now that's insane.

        It would be if the case you describe were judged to constitute patent infringement, but the Federal Court of Appeal has already ruled in this case that involuntary contamination does not constitute patent infringement. There is only patent infringement if the seeds were put there b
      • Not exactly (Score:3, Informative)

        by DDX_2002 (592881)
        Actually, the court found that the overall resistance was so high that the only explanation was that it was the roundup resistant plants which had been deliberately planted and it was the non gm canola which had accidentally contaminated the crop. The Court found there was no way the GM crop could be explained as accidental contamination. Now, I suppose someone could have snuck onto the guys property at night, taken an unseeded field and planted it with GM canola just so they could then proceed to sue him,
    • Your post gives me the seeds of an idea; maybe I should squirrel away a little something in case I'm ever visited by the IP police....
  • I'm going to move my DirecTV dish on to my neighbor's roof so he has to pay the bill. No GMO! No GMO! err... what did I just eat?
  • by yanestra (526590) * on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:51PM (#5982797) Journal
    Probably they have patentet me, and I'm their property?

    Random mutation could have made my genes change in a way that Monsanto's later efforts are anticipated. So I am possibly Monsanto's property, some time in the future. Or, I would have to prove that my genes are older, so it would be prior art.

  • Guinea Pig (Score:4, Funny)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:54PM (#5982810) Homepage
    Lyrics from a Moxy Fruvous song called "Guinea Pig". I'm not against geneticaly enginered food, but it just seemed apropriate.
    dont ya tell me what youre putting in my lunch box dont
    tell me what your feeding me today,
    dont fill my head with trouble while im scarfin' down a cheese soufle

    I wanna be a new, original creation
    a cross between a moose a monkey and a fig
    I'm ready Monsanto let me be your guina pig

    cuz the seed we sew aint good enough
    the earth we plow it aint good enough
    the food we grow well its never been up to scratch,

    the geezer with the beard and all the angels
    made a few mistakes I dont know why
    we dont need him anymore if geneticly modefy

    so dont ya tell me what youre puttin in my lunch box
    I got a crazy pioneering additude
    dont bother me with labels gotta get a belly full of franken-food

    gotta geta belly fulla franken-food

    • by sunaj (655412)
      I can see the headlines now:

      "Slashdot sued for publishing copyrighted lyrics on its web site"

      • Having met the Fruvous people, I think they would give permission, since it is both Topical, and Canadian.

        And if you like Moxy Fruvous, you will probably like The Arrogant Worms, and Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.

        "...Once I was the King of Spain (Now I eat humble pie)"

        - M Fruvous

        ttyl
        Farrell
    • You shouldn't post copyrighted material without express written consent.

      I love the world we live in. Mooching every last cent possible from the almighty consumer.
  • Witch dunking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vainglorious Coward (267452) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:57PM (#5982824) Journal

    Interesting how they test for the plant - spray the crop and if it dies you're innocent.

  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @06:59PM (#5982837)
    This is a classic micocausim of why all patents are bad in general, and why arguments like the "inventor has no inventive" ... and arguments like nobody "would invest in such and such research" and "no pharmacutical would spend R&D for cures" without a patent, are bullshit. (excuse the language, but I'm tired of being spoonfeed this garbage) People just assume it's true without even thinking about the range of consequences patents cause, and then try and ram them down everyones throat.
    • Your post is a classic example of why /. needs a spellchecker.

      It's not bullshit that we wouldn't have this research done without commercial incentive, and patents are there to create commercial incentive. It simply costs a lot of money to do this stuff, and if you aren't motivated by capitalism, you have to have it be government-funded, and then you end up with socialism.

      • It's not bullshit that we wouldn't have this research done without commercial incentive, and patents are there to create commercial incentive. It simply costs a lot of money to do this stuff, and if you aren't motivated by capitalism, you have to have it be government-funded, and then you end up with socialism.

        Arrgh!, this is exactly the kind of nonsense I'm talking about. Patents are not free market any more than any other artificial government imposed monopoly. Is it free market if the government gi

        • You are entitled to your belief that all patents are lame, but I disagree. Patents are useful things. Their current duration is ridiculous, and so is the ease of getting a patent. As we have seen, simply tons of patents are handed out nonsensically. They simply are not specific enough. If part of a design is obvious (part of nearly every design is obvious) then only the non-obvious portions should be patentable. The problem is that there's a lack of intelligent trustworthy people willing to review patents f
      • "you have to have it be government-funded, and then you end up with socialism."

        Socialism isn't the opposite of capitalism.

        Particularly in the real world where there are no capitalist economies and no socialist economies.
    • excuse the language, but I'm tired of being spoonfeed this garbage
      There is no spoon.
  • Go Europe! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PaulQuinn (171592) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:06PM (#5982873)
    Thank god the EU has some humanity and dignity left. I praise their stance on GM foods which is basically denying them completely, even wilfully paying fines brought by the WTO to not allow GM food trade.

    Why would any nation allow, let alone a single farmer choose to use patented seeds under these restrictions? I'll answer my own question - GREED.

    I hope Monsanto looses this one in a big, utterly devastating, way.
    • Re:Go Europe! (Score:4, Informative)

      by villoks (27306) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:33PM (#5983027) Homepage Journal
      Well,

      EU does not have so clean hands after all. The European Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions [eu.int] is rather horrible and the majority of member states have actually refused to transpose [plooij.nl] it. Unfortunately the new member states from Central/Eastern Europe won't have the same luxury because they have to accept everything without furher conditions (with certain very limited exceptions). It's not going to be a good time to be a farmer in Poland or Hungary, I believe..

      V.
    • hank god the EU has some humanity and dignity left. I praise their stance on GM foods which is basically denying them completely

      And not surprisingly, a major export of the EU is *scientists*. What scientist in his or her right mind would want to work in a such a luddite environment? It amazes me that the Slashdot crowd, which is presumably in favor of technological advances in computer technology, would not be in favor of advances in other fields.
  • by villoks (27306) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:07PM (#5982877) Homepage Journal
    Hi,

    This is not the only case going on right now - check this one out:
    [knoxnews.com]
    Farmer sent to prison over cotton seed

    I'm personally not against GM-plants because they can help reducing the enviromental load, but this kind stories are very scary. A typical farmer has similar chances as a snowball in hell in to win a case against a Megacorp like Monsanto...

    V.
    • by Phork (74706) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:36PM (#5983290) Homepage
      what exactly do you mean by "reduce the enviromental load"? The seeds in question are ones which monsanto calls "roundUp ready," which means they have had a gene inserted to make them immune to the pesticide roundup, which is made by monsanto's former chemical division(which has since been spun off as a seperate company). These plants do not fufil any of the pormises that monsanto and other make about GMO crops, they dont have higher yields, they aren't drought resistant, and they arent healthier. All they do is allow moroe of a chemical that has bee nshown to be harmfull to humans to be sprayed onto our food.
    • This farmer destroyed evidence, intentionally lied, all because he doesn't like Monsanto. Whether or not Monsanto deserves to be disliked, this farmer intentionally messed with them and the law, especially where he destroyed evidence after he was told not to.

      This has nothing in common with the Canadian case.
  • by sssmashy (612587) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:08PM (#5982884)

    Monsanto said canola plants grown from its genetically altered seed had grown along a ditch on the Schmeiser farm in violation of the company's patent. Schmeiser contends the GM seed blew off a truck or came from someone else's field but Monsanto argued that's impossible. Schmeiser said he never bought Monsanto seed.

    (...) At issue are the patent rights to Roundup Ready canola, a genetically modified strain resistant to a herbicide that would normally kill the plants used to produce cooking oil.

    Beyond the obvious issue of whether genetically altered plants should be patentable, there is also a simpler, common sense issue at stake: who was responsible for the contamination?

    If the seed blew in accidentally, contaminating the farmer's own breed of canola, there is no reason the farmer should be held responsible. Otherwise, what would stop an unscrupulous patent-holder from "accidentally" spreading their patented product all over the area, and then demanding compensation from the unsuspecting farmers?

    There's one simple way to test whether the seeding was intentional: did the farmer use herbicides on his crops? If the answer is yes, he clearly knew that Monsanto's herbicide-resistant plants were growing in his field. If the answer is no, he got no economic benefit from growing Monsanto's plants and should be left alone.

    • From the Web site dedicated to the farmer:

      In his defense, Schmeiser showed his own farm-based evidence that the fields ranged from nearly zero to 68% Roundup Ready. These tests were confirmed by independent tests performed by research scientists at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, MB.

      It makes no sense to plant only a part of crops of a certain variety, and I think this makes a very strong argument in his favor. Actually, the court didn't dispute it. The ruling stated that "the judge agreed a f

  • by zakezuke (229119) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:09PM (#5982888)
    You grow a plant in a field... plant grows...

    Plants produce seeds, which get carried off by

    1. Wind
    2. Animals
    3. Vehicels

    then reproduce into other plants.

    The answer is obvious

    Sue the
    Wind for illegal distrubution of IP
    The animals for illegal distrubution of IP
    The vehicel manufactor for creating a safe harbor for the distrubution of IP
    Sue the plants them selves for reproducing without a license.

  • Monsanto = Scumbags (Score:4, Informative)

    by gestapo4you (590974) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:14PM (#5982903)
    rBGH, Fox News and Monsanto: "Milk it does Monsanto good." fired journalist [indymedia.org]

    "They could not understand what was happening and told David Boylan,
    a Murdoch manager sent by Fox to Florida, that a valid, well-sourced
    news story was being stifled. Boylan's reply broke with all the traditions
    of the Murdoch empire.
    In a moment of insane candour, he told an unvarnished truth which should
    be framed and stuck on the top of every television set.
    "We paid $3 billion for these television stations," he snapped.
    "We'll decide what the news is. NEWS IS WHAT WE SAY IT IS."
    • Nothing new there. People like to pretend that Fox invented slanted reporting.

      "Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have."
      -- Richard Salant, President of CBS News forty years ago

      "We are going to impose our agenda on the coverage by dealing with issues and subjects that we choose to deal with".
      -- Richard M. Cohen, former Senior Producer of CBS political news

    • And just in case the above quotes are too oldy moldy for anyone's taste, here's one more, more recent:

      "While Dan Rather attempts to rationalize the network's heartless decision to air this despicable 'terrorist propaganda video,' it is beyond our comprehension that any mother, wife, father or sister should have to relive this horrific tragedy and watch their loved one being repeatedly terrorized," the family said.
      "Terrorists have made this video confident that the American media would broadcast it and th

  • by airherbe (638417) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:17PM (#5982922)

    I recently read a book that discussed agri-genetic engineering, specifically potatoes, and Monsanto's extreme measures to enforce their IP protection on these genetically engineered products. The author bought, grew, and studied some of these specially engineered plants.

    The book combines a history of the plant with a prime example of how biotechnology is changing our relationship to nature. As part of his research, Pollan visited the Monsanto company headquarters and planted some of their NewLeaf-brand potatoes in his garden--seeds that had been genetically engineered to produce their own insecticide. Though they worked as advertised, he made some startling discoveries, primarily that the NewLeaf plants themselves are registered as a pesticide by the EPA, and that federal law prohibits anyone from reaping more than one crop per seed packet. And in a interesting aside, he explains how a global desire for consistently perfect French fries contributes to both damaging monoculture and the genetic engineering necessary to support it. There are many parallels with genetic engineering of plants, and the irresponsible proliferation of antibiotics (and the diseases that become increasingly immune to them).

    If interested: The book is called Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. The book discusses four or five influential plants that have 1) shaped our history of humans and 2) that we have significantly altered theirs. I believe the plants are: potatoes, tulips, apples, and [interestingly enough] marijuana.

    -J. R. Rogivue

  • CBC links (Score:5, Informative)

    by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:21PM (#5982949) Homepage Journal
    The CBC [www.cbc.ca] also has a link to the Schmeiser/Monsanto story [www.cbc.ca] it includes all sorts of backgrounder links [tv.cbc.ca] including the full court documents from (at least) the original court case. It tells the story pretty completely from both sides, if you're willing to read the affidavits.
  • by Thinkit3 (671998) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:21PM (#5982955)
    You're fighting two camps here, the luddite camp that wants to fight genetically engineered foods, and the IP people, who want to fight logic.
  • I included some info on percy in an essay I wrote- and all I have to say is finally.
    I feel nothing but sympathy for him, Monsanto is a slimy company-- It'd be nice to see people move to organically grown foods to put this behemoth out of business.
    • Re:Finally~! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ehushagen (658426)
      Sympathy? For Percy Schmeiser?

      I used to live in the same area of Saskatchewan as this man, and let me tell you this, there aren't too many people that actually know the guy who are feeling *any* sympathy for him. He's a snake-oil salesman and a get-rich-quick bum. All his life he's done nothing at all productive, and now suddenly he's put on the "poor, overworked, underpaid, threatened-by-the-man farmer" act? Pfft. May he get what's coming to him.

      I also realize there is a good chance this will secure
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:27PM (#5982993) Journal
    I'm sorry, but I'm sick to death of biotech companies experimenting on us with GM foods, etc for no better reason than profit.

    They'll willingly gamble with all of our lives, betting the pot that their crops are safe to us and the environment yet they'll be the first to walk away and just shrug their shoulders if something goes wrong.

    I recently watched a programme about how Novartis was screwing Korean leukemia sufferers over the cost of their Glivec/Gleevec drug treatment. The very patients that were part of the company's clinical trials are now being fleeced by the company, blackmailed into paying tens of thousands of US dollars a year for a drug that they themselves helped bring to the market! This for a drug that costs pennies to mass produce.

    In fact, the whole Glivec issue is such a big deal in Korea (ask any Korean that you know) that although it's a life-saving drug, the name Glivec is now synonymous with death - that's how much Novartis's greed has pissed off an entire nation.

    (For more, check out this Google search: novartis glivec korea [google.com].

    These assholes seriously piss me off. Profits are one thing, but profits before people isn't just immoral and unethical, it's disgusting.
    • First off, this isn't to defend companies like Monsato. However ... when you complain that they're "experimenting on us with GM foods" you're implying that in nature, things never change, and are always safe. You do realize, right, that -many- plants we eat are partially poisonous? Random mutations, which we assume happen all the time, could just as easily start a new strain of human-killing wheat, without the help of Monsato. We don't know, for sure, what's growing in those crops -- one little plant could
      • LOL, good joke (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dh003i (203189)
        LOL, that's one of the funniest things I've read on /...that is, if you're joking.

        If not, then you obviously have a pretty sorry understanding of evolution and mutation. Plants are harvested en-mass. That means thousands or millions of them at once. The probability of such a mutatation as you describe occuring in one plant infinitesimally small. The probability of that same mutation occuring in enough plants in a harvest to have any significant effect is essentially zero. Also, for plants that are being ma
        • you're missing the fact that, in general, we complain that we -don't- know what GM plants will do to us. maybe cancer ... in fifty years. how many generations of a plant is that? we might not have any reason at all to know better, and weed those modified plants out. why should we? we're fine right now ... so natural selection may not be -possible-, because no detectable change has occured, until too late. this is the case in any of these situations. in the time it takes us to notice (run federally-funded re
          • Nope, you miss the point. The threats you speak of are minute and implausible. The threats from biocorps modifying food are much larger and more significant.
      • Random mutations, which we assume happen all the time, could just as easily start a new strain of human-killing wheat, without the help of Monsato.

        There is just one difference: While it is true that mutations and interbrew could generate potentially poisonous plants, they are not the only plants. But genetically altered seeds are mostly used in monoculture, on many fields at the same time. So instead of a small number of plants growing locally and maybe killing a dozen people because of their poison, you
  • by MisterMook (634297) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:36PM (#5983038) Homepage
    I bet if I patent my unique and viable sperm then I can finally enter into contract agreements for use with my spouse....
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:48PM (#5983083) Journal
    All we've heard is that the GE plants were growing in a ditch & they contaminated his crops. Here are the court decisions [fct-cf.gc.ca]. My basic understanding is that they're arguing about different things... so yes Monsanto should keep it's IP rights (whether this is a good thing or not is a different discussion) and yes, farmers shouldn't have to suffer from contaminated crops.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17, 2003 @07:53PM (#5983107)
    1- Genetically engineer a highly contagious but harmless virus.
    2- Let it spread.
    3- Sue everyone who is infected because they are illegally copying and distributing your (patented) work. And optionally sell a cure at an extremely high price, since it's not a life-threatening situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Even if they choose to call it canola, the farmer is still getting raped.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:12PM (#5983183) Journal

    What the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant is to Moe's Bar.

    Both are corrupt in their own way, but the scope of the potential damage, the feasibility of remedying the problem, and the immorality (if any) of Microsoft pales in comparison to Monsteranto. The latter has been on so many people's hit lists for years before Microsoft even existed, and for many good reasons. Just google around, you'll see what I'm talking about. This is by no means the first case where they've tried to pull something like this. If there's ever a "new American revolution" Monsanto should be the first corporation to lose its charter. Boston corn party, anyone?

  • On Monsanto: (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:13PM (#5983190) Homepage Journal

    Copied from e2, (idea) by vectormane, without permission. I hope he doesn't mind. I didn't want to link to e2 because it can't handle the load.

    Among the multitude of products and technologies invented and/or sold by Monsanto, or a company that later became a part of Monsanto:
    • "Control of Plant Gene Expression"

      The 'terminator seed' was jointly developed by the USDA and the Delta and Pine Land Company in 1998. It is a process in which a plant is genetically engineered to produce sterile seeds. Delta and Pine announced this technology in March of 1998. Monsanto bought them out in May.

    • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (Aroclor, Pyroclor)

      Most of the PCBs in the United States were manufactured by Monsanto until they were banned in 1976. PCBs are nonflammable and do not conduct electricity. They are linked to cancer, birth defects, and other negative health effects.

    • rBGH Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone

      A genetically engineered hormone that makes dairy cows produce more milk. It also shortens the cows' lives, can lead to udder infection (which must be treated with antibiotics). BGH-treated cows' milk contains elevated levels of the hormone IGF-1, which is believed to be linked to increased cancer risk in humans. rBGH is banned in Canada.

    • Agent Orange 2,4,5-T

      The herbicide used in Vietnam to destroy the foliage cover that the Viet Cong hid under. Often times Agent Orange was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-TCDD Dioxin). The TCDD is linked to cancers and birth defects. It is banned in the United States.

    In other words, Monsanto is criminal, arguably evil, certainly negligent, and generally a bunch of right bastards. GM foods FUD notwithstanding, these guys are bad people.

    • Re:On Monsanto: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *
      > Control of Plant Gene Expression

      You admit they didn't have anything with creating it, they just bought out the company that owned this tech.

      > Polychlorinated Biphenyls (Aroclor, Pyroclor)

      These were very useful compounds, and nobody knew of any risks. And the 'risks' were probably overstated since those sort of scares were all the rage back in the 70's. For that matter they seem to be pretty popular even after we have lived through enough that we should know better. (Lawsuits against McDonalds.
  • Meanwhile, the EU has banned GM crops, in part due to health concerns, but also due to fears that their crops might be contaminated by crops with IP restrictions, which would lead to farmers being sued by seed companies. It looks like this is going to contribute significantly to a US trade deficit in the near future and a major loss of revenue for the US agricultural industry, as well as companies like Monsanto.

    Intellectual Property: the best way to use lawsuits to drive yourself out of business.

    (My new j
  • Next Up (Score:2, Funny)

    by kanelephant (142254) *
    Writer of I love you virus sues for copyright infringement.

    "People just kept distributing copies of my IP" the author claimed earlier today.
  • by confused philosopher (666299) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @08:40PM (#5983306) Homepage Journal
    Obviously Monsanto is at fault here. They are honestly trying to argue that seeds can be controlled by humans. Heck, humans can't even control the seeds in their own loins, much less ones growing wild in the wind and water.

    Monsanto can't prove that they didn't contaminate his field, and they are shaking in their large, multi-billion dollar boots because a farmer from Saskatchewan is about to bring part of them down.
    • Monsanto can't prove that they didn't contaminate his field

      I don't understand why they'd have to. Percy Schmeiser has already testified in court that the glyphosate resistant canola seeds growing in his fields in 1998 were 1) planted there by an employee of his; 2) were taken from plants growing in his fields in 1997 which he had identified as being glyphosate resistant. The court took his account of the facts as being the canonical one. They ruled that even with the facts as he stated them, his compan
      • "[39] In an attempt to determine why the plants had survived the
        herbicide spraying, Mr. Schmeiser conducted a test in field 2. Using his
        sprayer, he sprayed, with Roundup herbicide, a section of that field in a
        strip along the road."

        So in his testimony he admits that Monsanto contaminated his field. And this is their defense, that he stole the seed that they grew on his field without his permission?! Weak, very weak.
        • So in his testimony he admits that Monsanto contaminated his field. And this is their defense, that he stole the seed that they grew on his field without his permission?! Weak, very weak.

          "stole"? But he was not charged with theft. He was sued for patent infringement. I am puzzled why people feel the fact that he took the seed from contaminating plants he found on his property makes it any less of an example of patent infringement. There is no exemption allowing one to infringe patents provided one use

          • "There is no exemption allowing one to infringe patents provided one uses one's own property to do so. This is the case with all patents. It is not something special to this case."

            So you are saying there is no prescedent for this case. It is a special case, because it is about food, property rights, and genetic engineering/contamination. Then it is perfect that it goes to the Supreme Court so they can set it.

  • You shouldn't be able to patent life forms.

    The implications of this are staggering taken to its logical conclusion and man's increasing ability to generate variations of life.

    I think the concept is abhorant, but then, I don't consider corporate "rights" to be an object of religious veneration.
  • by theLOUDroom (556455) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @10:37PM (#5983798)
    This is a pretty clear example of why you should NEVER be able to patent DNA.

    At least one developing nation (South Africa, I think) has already outlawed GE crops, because of the IP concerns involved. What would happen to S.A. if these crops spread on their own and became the dominant species?

    The developing nation would no longer be able to grow any food without paying royalties to Monsanto, which they couldn't afford. People would starve. Look at what happend with S.A. and AIDs drugs. I think that showed pretty clearly how little respect some companies have for life.

    You should be able to patent a process for modifying DNA. You should never be able to patent the actual organism. If this means that you can get corporate funding for X, oh well. Apply for a grant.

    Hell, what happens if someone else patents your DNA? Do you have to pay them royalties if you want to have kids? This is stupid.

    BTW, someone else patenting your DNA isn't as unlikely as you might think. It's not like Monsanto developed the DNA for all their crops from scratch. What happens when you participate in some successful cancer/AIDS/whatever research, where they find you have just the right gene they need?
  • by behemot (653227) on Saturday May 17, 2003 @10:55PM (#5983871)
    Now that there is growing talk of gene therapy for humans, these cases will be of more consequence than IP and agriculture alone.

    Suppose your body has been subjected some years from now to patented gene therapy.
    a) what kind of usage restrictions would companies dare to claim on their IP? Will it be possible that they'll ask you to remove the patented gene from your body if, for example, you stopped paying them monthly treatment fees?
    More likely,
    will they introduce combinations of "gene therapy+required antibiotics" similar to what happens with crop seeds [when you buy a GM crop because it is resistant to an, also patented, herbicide]. The implications would be that your survival could be at risk if you stop taking the supplemental medications that make it possible for you to live with the "therapeutic" gene. By raising the prices of the supplement a pharmacorp could "drive out of business" gene therapy patients who no longer could pay for the supplement or (more likely) loot the treasury if the patients are on Medicare. Would any representative dare to vote against dishing out funding for the supplement if this vote threatens lives of current patients?
    b) What if the therapeutic genes find their way into your children (even if they weren't supposed to). Would your children have to pay fees to the pharmacorp? Would you have to pay a license fee to have children?

    In case-based judicial systems current developments in GM patent cases will set the stage for what scale of wrongdoing will be allowed in the future when GM touches us even more personally.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

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