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From April 3, 2001

Farmer Ordered to Pay Monsanto After GM Crops Contaminate Fields

In the first case of its kind to go to trial, a judge ordered a Canadian farmer to pay Monsanto Co., the biotechnology giant, thousands of dollars for the company's genetically modified (GM) canola plants that were found growing in his field, according to a Washington Post article. The plants are the product of pollen from nearby farms blowing onto the farmer's property and contaminating his non-GM canola crop.

The federal court decision was a major setback for farmers, who fear they will be held liable if pollen from neighboring farms blows onto their fields, transmitting patented genes to their crops without their knowledge or consent. "I've been using my own seeds for years, and now farmers like me are being told we can't do that anymore if our neighbors are growing [genetically modified] crops that blow in," said Percy Schmeiser, 70, the farmer from Saskatchewan who was sued by Monsanto. "Basically, the right to use our own seed has been taken away."

The court decision prohibits Schmeiser from using his seed again, and requires him to pay Monsanto about $10,000 for its user fees and up to $75,000 in profits from his 1998 contaminated crop. The Monsanto canola is 'Roundup Ready,' containing a gene that protects the crop from the herbicide Roundup, which allows the farmer to spray the herbicide more widely.

Margaret Mellon, director of the agriculture and biotechnology program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the ruling "stunning," commenting that, "This means that people who are in the neighborhood of genetically modified crops will have to pay royalties to the companies for products they never purchased and got no benefits from."

Click here to view the full Washington Post article: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/nation/science/A12927-2001Mar29.html