GM Giant Monsanto Sues Canadian Farmer

Speaking of genetic drift: The Canadian Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a case that has become a cause celebre for both opponents and fans of agricultural biotechnology. Agro-giant Monsanto Co. sued Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser when its patented biotech canola was found growing in his fields in 1997; the company requires a per-acre licensing fee for use of its herbicide-resistant seeds. Schmeiser claims that the canola seeds drifted onto his land from neighboring farms without his knowledge. The lawsuit has come to represent the hopes and fears of small farmers around the globe — who fear liability from accidental crop contamination, but hope that biotech crops can increase their yields — as well as the contention by biotech opponents that messing with the genetic code of plants and animals is unsafe and unethical altogether. The court ruling will be the world’s first on gene patent infringement. Monsanto has sued some 90 American farmers on similar grounds, and a think tank is searching for one to appeal their case to a higher court in the U.S.