!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of 'May 5, 2004: Canadian Seed Sector Review Recommends Host of Changes that Would Alter Relationship between Farmer and Seed Companies'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event May 5, 2004: Canadian Seed Sector Review Recommends Host of Changes that Would Alter Relationship between Farmer and Seed Companies. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Revisions to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants strengthen the intellectual property rights of seed developers. The convention was created in 1961 and is one of several international conventions and treaties that operate under the umbrella of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The convention’s governing body is the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). The newly revised UPOV agreement extends the term of plant breeders’ intellectual property protections for new varieties from 15 years to 20 years. It also prohibits farmers from saving seeds, though there is an optional clause that allows member countries to exempt farmers from this restriction under certain conditions. For example, the clause says the restrictions can be waived if member countries implement other mechanisms that provide equivalent protections for the “legitimate interests of the breeder.” [International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 3/19/1991; Dhar, Pandey, and Chaturvedi, 6/23/1995] The revisions will enter into force one month after five states have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to UPOV ‘91.

Entity Tags: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canada grants Monsanto patent no. 1313830 for glyphosate-resistant plant genes and cells. The patent grants the company the exclusive right, privilege, and liberty of making, constructing, using, and selling the invention in Canada until the patent’s expiration on February 23, 2010. [Canadian Patents Database, 2/23/1993; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 3 pdf file] Though Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Act protects the intellectual property rights of seed developers, Monsanto felt a patent would provide more protection since it would deny farmers the right to save and re-use seeds containing the company’s patented genes and cells. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

A number of agricultural biotech firms secure patents on genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs). GURT, more commonly known as “terminator” technology, involves genetically engineering seeds to grow into sterile plants. The motivation behind this technology is to provide a means for seed companies to protect their intellectual property rights. By making their seeds genetically sterile, seed companies can prevent farmers from saving and replanting proprietary seeds, thus forcing farmers to purchase new seeds every year. Critics say that biotech companies intend to use the technology to force their seeds on Third World farmers, most of whom engage in subsistence-level farming and plant only common seed. The seed industry sees these farmers as a huge untapped market. Seed savers number an estimated 1.4 billion farmers worldwide—100 million in Latin America, 300 million in Africa, and 1 billion in Asia—and are responsible for growing between 15 and 20 percent of the world’s food supply. [USPTO Patent Database, 3/3/1998; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998; Ecologist, 9/1998] In addition to GURT, companies are seeking to develop a similar technology, called T-GURT or genetic trait control. This technology would make plant growth or the expression of certain genes contingent on whether or not the seed or plant is exposed to certain chemicals. For example, AstraZeneca is developing a technology to produce crops that would fail to grow properly if they are not regularly exposed to the company’s chemicals. The Canadian-based Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) suggests that T-GURT could serve as a platform upon which certain proprietary traits could be placed. In order to turn positive traits (e.g., herbicide-resistance) on, or negative traits (e.g., sterility) off, the farmer would need to either apply proprietary chemicals to the crops as they grow or pay to have the seeds soaked in a catalyst solution prior to planting. Critics note that this technology, like terminator technology, would require that farmers pay every year to have functioning seeds. Farmers would, in effect, be leasing the seed. Companies developing GURT and T-GURT seeds include Novartis, AstraZeneca, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Rhone Poulenc, and DuPont. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/27/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999]
Critics Say: -
bullet Terminator seeds would either turn poor farmers into “bioserfs,” by requiring them to pay for their seed every year, or drive these farmers out of farming all together. Proponents counter that farmers would not be forced to buy the seed. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998]
bullet If biotech seed companies were to penetrate the markets of non-industrialized countries, their seeds would replace thousands of locally grown and adapted varieties resulting in a significant loss of the world’s agricultural biodiversity. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998]
bullet The use of terminator technology would allow the seed industry to expand into new sectors of the seed market, like those for self-pollinating crops such as wheat, rice, cotton, soybeans, oats and sorghum, according to the Canadian-based Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). “Historically there has been little commercial interest in non-hybridized seeds such as wheat and rice because there was no way for seed companies to control reproduction. With the patent announcement, the world’s two most critical food crops—rice and wheat—staple crops for three-quarters of the world’s poor, potentially enter the realm of private monopoly.” The organization notes that according to FAO, wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop, was grown on 219 million hectares in 1995. Rice, which was cultivated on 149 million hectares that year, produced the most crop by weight at 542 million tons. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998]
bullet Critics warn that terminator technology would threaten the farmers’ expertise in seed selection and traditional plant breeding. [India, 12/2/1998]
bullet Some scientists have warned that introducing terminator genes into the germplasm could result in the development of a virus that could disable all non-terminator seeds. “This is perfectly possible,” according to Dr. Owain Williams, of the Gaia Foundation. “Already bacteria have been developed for fixing nitrogen into corn roots, so why not a killer bacteria?” [Independent, 3/22/1998]
bullet Terminator technology is also likened to piracy. Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rosset of Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, write: “Patenting genes the same way you patent software robs Third World farmers. While they and their ancestors developed almost all important food crops, transnational corporations can now blithely patent those crops and make mega profits without in any way compensating traditional farm communities for the original research. Genetic resources taken freely from southern countries will be returned to them later as pricey patented commodities. ‘Terminator’ technology is a way of locking this ‘bio-piracy’ into the very genes themselves.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1/1999]
Proponents Say: -
bullet Supporters of the technology say that farmers will not be required to buy the seed and therefore will not purchase it unless they perceive some benefit from using it. Critics say that this scenario is not realistic. In a market dominated by an ever diminishing number of seed companies, selection will be limited. RAFI notes: “Current trends in seed industry consolidation, coupled with rapid declines in public sector breeding, mean that farmers are increasingly vulnerable and have far fewer options in the marketplace.” [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998]
bullet Some proponents argue that terminator seeds would be no different than F1 hybrids, which produce lower quality seeds than their parents. [London Times, 11/4/1998]
bullet Advocates say that terminator technology will allow the industry to safely release genetically modified plants into the environment, without the risk of contaminating related crops or wild plants. [New Scientist, 2/26/2005] Critics say that alleged benefit is outweighed by the danger terminator seeds pose to food safety, farmers’ rights, and agricultural biodiversity. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998]

Timeline Tags: Seeds, Food Safety

Monsanto’s “Technology Use Agreement” requires farmers to pay a $12 ($15 CAD) technology fee for every acre they plant with Monsanto’s patented seed. Farmers pay the fee to the store where they purchase the seed. Under the terms of the agreement, farmers must deliver all of their crop to an elevator or crushing plant—they are prohibited from saving and replanting any harvested seed. They therefore must purchase new seed every year. They are also prohibited from making the seed available to other farmers, a practice known as “brown-bagging.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] “Monsanto effectively gains a license to control the seed even after the farmer has bought, planted, and harvested it,” notes a 2005 report by the Center for Food Safety. [Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 13 pdf file] For thousands of years farmers have been planting the seeds they collected from the previous year’s harvest. Monsanto’s restrictions therefore cause great concern among organizations that deal with global food security since three-quarters of the world’s food producers are subsistence farmers who plant saved seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] The contract also gives Monsanto the right to come onto a farmer’s land to take plant samples for three years after a farmer has stopped using the company’s seed. Another stipulation in the contract specifies that farmers can only use Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. This clause virtually guarantees Monsanto a dominant share in the non-selective herbicide market for its Roundup herbicide—which has no patent protection in Canada and whose patent in the US expires in 2000. Though many farmers are reportedly happy with the product, few like the provisions in this contract. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] “This is part of the agricultural revolution, and any revolution is painful. But the technology is good technology,” says Karen Marshall, a Monsanto spokeswoman. The company says the no-replant policy is necessary in order to recoup the millions of dollars it has spent on research and development. The company claims its genetically modified seeds are increasing farmers’ yields and making it possible for them to use more environmentally-friendly pesticides. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Karen Marshall, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Elmer Borstmeyer, a farmer who is a licensed Roundup Ready Canola grower, drives his grain truck by four of Percy Schmeiser’s canola fields. He later testifies in court that on one or two of his trips the tarp was loose, and he believes he lost a lot of canola seed. “The tarp acted like a cyclone,” he will recall. “I lost some seed. That’s for sure.” [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 50 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Borstmeyer

Timeline Tags: Seeds

According to the 2000 court testimony of Percy Schmeiser’s field hand, Carlyle Moritz, swaths (swaths are the debris left over after a field has been mowed) from a neighbor’s field planted with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola are blown onto one of Schmeiser’s fields. The swaths are subsequently picked up by a combine and deposited into the grain bins on that field. It is later suggested that some of the Roundup Ready Canola later found in Schmeiser’s crop may have grown from seeds carried onto his property in these swaths. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 6 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Carlyle Moritz

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser has Roundup sprayed in the ditches and around the telephone poles adjacent to the road that runs along four of his nine canola fields. After the spraying, he notices that roughly 60 percent of the canola plants survived the application. Curious about the possibility that his canola may have developed a resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, he sprays a trial strip about 100 feet wide in one of the fields that is next to the road. He later says in court that the total area represented a “good three acres.” As a result of the spraying, roughly 40 percent of the canola plants die. The surviving 60 percent are scattered in clumps and are mostly concentrated near the road. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Leader Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), 6/13/2000; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 6 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Wayne Derbyshire, an investigator with Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, goes to Percy Schmeiser’s farm to obtain plant samples on behalf of Monsanto. Monsanto has hired Robinson Investigation to obtain the samples because the company believes that Schmeiser planted its patent-protected seeds and that he illegally purchased them from a Monsanto-licensed farmer. Monsanto’s “Technology Use Agreement” (see 1996) prohibits licensed farmers from making patented seeds available to other growers. (Selling seeds under the table in this manner is referred to as “brown-bagging.”) [Washington Post, 5/2/1999; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 19 pdf file] One set of samples is taken from a field that later court testimony reveals may not have been Schmeiser’s. The second set of samples is taken from plants owned by Percy Schmeiser that are growing in the ditches and public right-of-way where Schmeiser earlier discovered the presence of Roundup-resistant canola (see Summer 1997). Derbyshire sends the samples to his boss, Mike Robinson, on August 27. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] When Schmeiser later learns of this sampling in 1998, he will accuse Robinson Investigation of trespassing (see March 1998). Farmers are permitted to grow and harvest crops in public right-of-ways, and on this basis, Schmeiser’s lawyer will later argue in court that the crops taken by Derbyshire were in fact property of Schmeiser. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, disputes Schmeiser’s allegation, telling the Washington Post in 1999 that it is not completely clear whether Derbyshire actually crossed Schmeiser’s property line. Angell also asserts that trespassing is neither a criminal nor a civil offense in Saskatchewan. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Monsanto, Wayne Derbyshire, Philip Angell

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser’s field hand, Carlyle Moritz, swaths and combines Schmeiser’s canola fields. The grain collected from the field where Roundup-resistant plants were earlier discovered (see Summer 1997) is stored in an old truck. The truck contains grain from both the area that Schmeiser sprayed and other areas of the same field. Schmeiser will use these seeds for his 1998 crop (see Spring 1998). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 7 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 18-19 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Carlyle Moritz

Timeline Tags: Seeds

On September 2, Mike Robinson sends the canola plant samples taken from Percy Schmeiser’s farm (see August 18, 1997) to Aaron Mitchell, the Monsanto employee who is in charge of the company’s investigation of Schmeiser. Each sample is said to contain between 10 and 40 pods. Upon receipt of the pods, Mitchell removes the seeds and places them in coin envelopes. He then sends them to Merle Waterfield of the Crop Science Department of the University of Saskatchewan for a grow-out test. Only four seeds from each sample are planted. All except one of the plants that germinate from these seeds survive an application of Roundup. The remaining samples are then returned to Mitchell. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 17 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 20 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Merle Waterfield, Aaron Mitchell, Mike Robinson

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s net sales for the year is $8.6 billion and its share of the genetically modified seed market is 88 percent. Trailing behind Monsanto are Novartis and DuPont. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Dupont, Novartis, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Mike Robinson, owner of a private investigation company that works for Monsanto, visits Percy Schmeiser at his farm. Schmeiser learns that Monsanto is investigating him and that an investigator working for Robinson took plant samples from his fields in 1997 (see August 18, 1997). Robinson says Monsanto suspects Schmeiser is illegally growing its patent-protected Roundup Ready Canola. Schmeiser accuses Robinson’s company of trespassing. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 21 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mike Robinson, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Delta & Pine Land Company jointly obtain US patent 5,723,765 for a technology that would be used to make sterile seeds (see 1994 and after). The seeds, dubbed “terminator” seeds by critics, would grow into plants that would produce seeds that when replanted would literally kill themselves by producing a toxic protein. Delta & Pine Land has exclusive licensing rights, while the USDA would earn about 5 percent of the net sales of any commercial product using the technology. The USDA and Pine Land Co. have also applied for patents in at least 78 other countries. Delta & Pine Land says in its press release that the technology has “the prospect of opening significant worldwide seed markets to the sale of transgenic technology for crops in which seed currently is saved and used in subsequent plantings.” [USPTO Patent Database, 3/3/1998; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998; Ecologist, 9/1998]

Entity Tags: Delta & Pine Land Company, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Willard Phelps of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) tells Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) that the goal of terminator technology is “to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by US seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries.” Phelps says he wants terminator technology to be “widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies.” [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/30/1998] The USDA shares a patent for terminator technology with Delta & Pine Land (see March 3, 1998).

Entity Tags: Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Willard Phelps

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The 1991 revisions to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (see March 19, 1991) are entered into force. The controversial changes limit farmers’ rights while extending intellectual property rights for seed companies and other plant breeders. [International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 4/21/1998; Financial Times, 4/24/1998] A press release published by the UPOV notes that Article 27.3(b) of the WTO TRIPS agreement calls for its members to protect plant varieties with patents or other mechanisms, such as the UPOV convention, which it says is the “only internationally recognized sui generis system for the protection of plant varieties.” The press release also notes that this obligation in the TRIPS Agreement, which already applies to developed country members of WTO, will enter into force for many developing countries on January 1, 2000. [International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 4/21/1998]

Entity Tags: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto says it will purchase Delta & Pine Land Company, the company that shares a jointly-held patent on terminator technology with the US Department of Agriculture (see March 3, 1998). [Ecologist, 9/1998] The acquisition will be stalled by US anti-trust agencies, and in December 1999 Monsanto will drop its bid (see December 19, 1999).

Entity Tags: Delta & Pine Land Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser plants 1,030 acres in nine of his fields with canola. He uses a mixture of seed saved from 1997 and seed saved from previous years. He knows that the 1997 seed was saved from a field where Roundup-resistant plants had been discovered (see Summer 1997). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto secures a court order permitting the company to take plants from Percy Schmeiser’s canola fields. Monsanto believes that Schmeiser is illegally growing the company’s patent-protected Roundup Ready Canola. Schmeiser is aware that some of his canola is resistant to Roundup but denies that this is the result of any willful action on his part. He claims to have never purchased or otherwise obtained Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola pedigree seed. He thinks the presence of plants resistant to Roundup is the result of cross-pollination or seeds blown from a nearby farm or off passing grain trucks. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Monsanto, in a letter to the court dated August 12, says it will notify Schmeiser’s lawyer before entering onto Schmeiser’s property. The sample is to be collected in the presence of Schmeiser and split between Monsanto and Schmeiser so each party can have it tested separately. According to Schmeiser, Don Todd (Robinson Investigation) and James Vancha (Monsanto), arrive unannounced and do not allow him to accompany them. However, Todd and Vancha will dispute Schmeiser’s version of events in court testimony, saying the farmer had declined to participate because of a “bad leg.” Instructions contained in the court order do not specify that they use any sort of representative sampling technique that could be used to determine what percentage of Schmeiser’s canola plants are resistant to Roundup. Rather, since Monsanto is interested only in proving the presence of the patented gene in Schmeiser’s fields, Todd and Vancha are just asked to randomly collect a total of 54 samples from Schmeiser’s 9 fields (27 for Monsanto and 27 for Schmeiser). In spite of the fact that no method is employed to ensure that the composition of the samples are representative of the composition of the fields, Monsanto will later cite test results based on these samples when making assertions in court about the percentage of Roundup-resistant plants growing on Schmeiser’s farm (see January 1999) [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 24-25 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Don Todd, James Vancha, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Darwin Murrell of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) emails a memo informing the department’s scientists that any research into terminator technology must now be reviewed by senior managers. The USDA jointly holds a patent on the technology with Delta & Pine Land (see March 3, 1998). This is a “sensitive issue,” Murrell says. “Imposing an extra level of review for this research will not create undue delays nor will it restrict the creative talents of our scientists, but it will help them avoid potential political and legal pitfalls.” [New Scientist, 10/10/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Agriculture, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a Canadian-based organization that advocates on behalf of poor farmers, discovers that seed companies have collectively obtained 29 patents on technologies that would be used to create seeds whose growth could be restricted. Companies are interested in the technology because they can protect their intellectual property rights by preventing unauthorized—i.e., unpaid for—use of the seed. The first known patent for this type of technology was for the “terminator” seed, developed jointly by Delta & Pine Land Company and the US Department of Agriculture (see March 3, 1998). The technology has been condemned worldwide by a number of governments, scientists, and organizations concerned with food security, farmers’ rights, and biodiversity. The revelation that so many companies still want to develop and use this technology—despite such widespread condemnation—leads Pat Mooney of RAFI to say that seed sterility technology is the “Holy Grail” of the biotech industry. “The notorious terminator patent is just the tip of the iceberg,” explains Mooney, “Every major seed and agrochemical enterprise is developing its own version of suicide seeds,” he adds. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/27/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Dupont, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Rhone Poulenc

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian farmer Charlie Boser discovers between 300 and 500 Roundup Ready Canola plants in a field that was sprayed twice for weeds with Roundup mixtures. “Everything along that quarter was burnt to a crisp quite brown except for the canola,” he later testifies in court. The plants had apparently come to his fields from the east. “I was a little upset to have this contaminant on my land. I’d never used a Roundup Ready Canola.” He contacts Monsanto, who compensates him for one of his spray applications and pays the person who had done the chemical fallow to “get some kids to come pick it out,” according to Boser. A Monsanto representative later informs him that a field adjacent to his was planted with Roundup Ready Canola. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Western Producer (Saskatoon), 6/22/2000]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Charlie Boser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (SBSTTA) rejects proposals during a meeting in Montreal to recommend a permanent moratorium on genetic use restriction technologies (GURT). GURTs are those which use genetic engineering to restrict the growth of plants in order to protect the intellectual property rights of the seed developer. The most well-known restriction technology is “terminator” technology (see 1994 and after). Another is “traitor” technology, so named because the traits of seeds and plants produced with this technology can be genetically controlled, e.g., a certain proprietary chemical may be required in order for certain genes to be expressed. The proposal to ban GURTs was made after a report by a blue-ribbon scientific panel was presented before the SBSTTA. The report had concluded that restriction technologies are a threat to agricultural biodiversity and national food security. The delegates at the meeting reportedly agreed that the study was broadly based and well done. After listening to the report, the government of Norway proposed that the SBSTTA recommend a moratorium on field trials and commercialization of the technology. India, Portugal, Kenya, Peru, and several other countries backed the proposal. The US opposed it, as did Canada—though only the US delegation attempted to defend the technology. One of the concerns expressed by supporters of the proposal was that terminator technology could be used to strong arm poorer countries into adopting or accepting certain trade policies. Countries like the US, it was suggested, could withhold seed or the chemicals needed to sustain the growth of chemically dependent plants as a sort of ransom. With the US and Canada opposed to Norway’s proposal, an alternative resolution was drafted by Britain (and then amended by Suriname). Though different than Norway’s, Britain’s proposal would have also recommended a ban on commercialization and field trials. But this was not considered agreeable either. Finally, a “contact group” was formed, which went into private discussion. The compromise that resulted from the closed-door meeting looked nothing like either of the original proposals. Under the provisions of the compromise resolution, governments would have the option of imposing a ban on field trials and commercialization. It failed to affirm the conclusions of the Blue Panel report, making no mention of GURT posing a direct threat to biodiversity or national sovereignty over genetic resources. “I don’t know what happened in that room,” Silvia Ribeiro of Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) says, “There were two reasonably strong resolutions when they went in and one very weak proposal when they came out. I think the South has been tricked.” The new proposal was then weakened even further by the efforts of Australia. Even an industry representative took a stab at weakening the proposal. “In the feeding frenzy, a representative from the seed industry became so excited that he took the floor, presumed the prerogative of a government, and proposed additional resolution text to restrict farmers’ rights to save, exchange, and sell farm-saved seed,” according to RAFI. The following day, during a plenary discussion, RAFI called attention to a little noticed provision that had been slipped into the draft by Australia as an amendment. RAFI noted that it would restrict countries’ rights to impose a moratorium on GURT by linking any moratorium to potential trade sanctions. “Shortly before the debate ended, the US delegation made an ugly and aggressive intervention that put the question to rest: The US bluntly threatened trade sanctions on countries that impose a moratorium and made clear that it was willing to use the WTO to force terminator down the world’s throat,” according to RAFI. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 6/25/1999; Convention on Biodiversity, 6/27/1999, pp. 23-26 pdf file; Convention on Biodiversity, 6/27/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 6/28/1999; Economic Times of India, 7/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Suriname, Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, Portugal, United States, United Kingdom, Peru, Kenya, Australia, Canada, Norway, India

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The US Department of Agriculture and cotton seed producer Delta & Pine Land jointly acquire a new patent (US Patent No 5,925,808) for genetic seed sterilization, also known as terminator technology. The patent is for innovations related to its original patent for seed sterilization (see March 3, 1998) issued in March 1998. [USPTO Patent Database, 7/20/1999]

Entity Tags: Delta & Pine Land Company, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser gives the 27 canola pods that were collected by Monsanto a year before (see August 12, 1998) to his lawyers who then send them to the University of Manitoba to be tested for the presence of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola genes. Lyle Friesen, a plant biologist at the university who conducts the tests, finds that 15 of the samples are too moldy to grow. The seeds in the other 12 samples germinate and are sprayed with Roundup. Survival rates in these samples range from 0 to 67 percent. As Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in court, the people hired by Monsanto to obtain the samples did not collect them using a methodology that would have ensured that the composition of the samples were representative of the composition of the fields (see August 12, 1998). Therefore, according to Schmeiser’s lawyer, the samples can only indicate “what is in the bags, not what is in the fields.” Also included in the samples sent to Friesen are the seeds (the authenticity of which Schmeiser challenges (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000)) that were returned to Schmeiser by Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (who took over operations of Humboldt Flour Mills in 1998) earlier in the year. Tests performed on these seeds indicate that between 95 and 99 percent contained the patented gene. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 22 pdf file; Crop Choice, 5/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Lyle Friesen

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The US Patent office issues its third patent (US Patent No 5,977,441) to the US Department of Agriculture and cotton seed producer Delta & Pine Land for genetic seed sterilization, commonly known as terminator technology. The patent is for innovations related to two earlier patents (see March 3, 1998) issued in March 1998 and July 1999 (see July 20, 1999). [USPTO Patent Database, 11/2/1999]

Entity Tags: Delta & Pine Land Company, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Biotech giant Monsanto and drug maker Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. agree to merge. Together the two companies have a combined market value of about $52 billion. [New York Times, 12/20/1999] Shortly after the merger announcement, Monsanto says it has decided to drop its bid (see May 11, 1998) for Delta & Pine Land, the cotton seed company that shares a patent (see March 3, 1998) with the Department of Agriculture for terminator technology. [Reuters, 12/22/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc, Delta & Pine Land Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Aaron Mitchell, Monsanto’s lead investigator in the Percy Schmeiser case, sends seed samples that were taken from Percy Schmeiser’s farm in 1997 (see August 18, 1997) to Keith Downey, emeritus professor of Agricultural Canada and University of Saskatchewan. Mitchell has been in possession of the seeds since the fall of 1997. The seeds were stored in coin envelopes. When Downey receives the seeds there are very few left—one envelope only contains two seeds, while the envelope with the most seeds has only about 30. According to Schmeiser, the envelopes should contain between 200 and 800 seeds each. Schmeiser, who has been invited to witness the planting of the seeds, later claims that the sample includes numerous cleaver seeds. Schmeiser also says that the sample includes cracked seeds and debris indicating that they had been through a combine. If these samples were indeed the ones taken in 1997, there should be no cleaver seeds, cracked seeds, or debris, Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in the closing argument of Schmeiser’s June 2000 trial (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). Downey’s grow-out of these seeds results in a 50 percent germination rate. All the resulting plants prove resistant to Roundup. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 17 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 20 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Keith Downey, Aaron Mitchell

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Lyle Friesen, a plant biologist at the University of Manitoba, obtains seed samples—presumably from Percy Schmeiser’s 1997 harvest (see August 18, 1997)—from Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (which took over Humboldt Flour Mills). He performs a grow-out test of these seed samples and finds that as many as 98 percent of them are Roundup-resistant. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 22 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 26-27 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Lyle Friesen

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian canola seeds sold to Europe by Advanta Canada are discovered to be contaminated with a small percentage of genetically modified (GM) seeds. [Canadian Press, 6/4/2000] The contamination resulted from pollen that was blown in from a farm growing GM crops more than a kilometer away. European citizens and governments are outraged and farmers in some of the countries plow their crops under. [Globe and Mail, 5/25/2000; New Scientist, 12/23/2000]

Entity Tags: Advanta Canada

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s 2005 “Technology Use Agreement” (TUA) includes several provisions that were not present in its 1996 agreement (see 1996). The company’s TUAs have been heavily criticized by farmers and groups concerned about food security and farmers’ rights because of its provisions barring farmers from saving and replanting seed. Another part of the contract that has been unpopular among farmers is the requirement that farmers grant Monsanto the right to come onto a farmer’s land to take plant samples any time during the first three years after a farmer has stopped using the company’s seed. Some of the provisions that have been added since 1996 state the following:
bullet All legal disputes (except those involving cotton) must be settled at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri or the Circuit Court of the County of St. Louis.
bullet Farmers must give Monsanto permission to access third-party records of the farmers’ activities, such as those held by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). The Center for Food Safety notes: “The breadth of this provision allows the company to obtain documents that are not necessarily directly related to a farmer’s seed or chemical purchase, permitting Monsanto to assess a grower’s financial state.”
bullet Farmers are not required to do anything to prevent contaminating neighbors’ fields with Monsanto’s genes. Recognizing that a “minimal amount of pollen movement (some of which can carry genetically improved traits) between neighboring fields is a well known and normal occurrence in corn seed or grain production,” the agreement suggests that farmers planting the company’s seeds are not under any obligation to prevent the contamination of neighboring non-transgenic crop fields. Conventional farmers “assume the responsibility and receive the benefit for ensuring that their crop meets… specifications for purity,” the agreement asserts.

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

After Percy Schmeiser and Monsanto fail to reach an out-of-court settlement, Monsanto takes the 69-year-old canola farmer to court. Monsanto claims that in 1998, Schmeiser planted 1,030 acres with seed from his 1997 canola crop containing a gene or cell that was protected by Monsanto’s 1993 (see February 23, 1993) patent on glyphosate-resistant plants and that he did so without permission from Monsanto. The company further alleges that in doing so Schmeiser illegally used, reproduced, and created genes, cells, plants, and seeds containing the patent-protected genes and cells. According to Monsanto, it is of no consequence how the gene arrived in Schmeiser’s field; his mere planting of the gene constitutes infringement. The company is suing for the $15 CAD/acre technology fee that other farmers using the seed are required to pay (A total of $15,450 CAD), the profits resulting from Schmeiser’s 1998 crop ($105,000 CAD, according to Monsanto), interest, exemplary damages ($25,000 CAD), and court costs. [Toronto Star, 6/3/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2000] Terry Zakreski, Schmeiser’s attorney, does not deny that the some of the canola plants in Schmeiser’s 1998 crop contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. However, he rejects Monsanto’s claim that Schmeiser infringed on the company’s patent when he planted the crop since the presence of Monsanto’s Roundup Resistance canola was not a result of any deliberate action on the part of Schmeiser. The defense suggests that Monsanto’s patented-gene arrived on Schmeiser’s property by way of pollination or wind-blown seed. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999]
Plaintiff Argument--Tests show high percentage of Roundup in sample taken from Schmeiser's 1997 crop - In spite of the fact that Monsanto’s argument does not hinge in anyway on how its Roundup Ready Canola came to grow on Schmeiser’s fields, it nonetheless attempts to make the case that the alleged high percentage of Roundup-resistant canola in Schmeiser’s 1997 crop was too high to have resulted solely from cross-pollination or wind-blown seed as Schmeiser claims. As evidence of this, Monsanto cites tests (see Fall 1997) (see January 24, 2000) performed on plant samples taken in August of that year by Wayne Derbyshire (see August 18, 1997). Those tests found that the samples contained a very high percentage (more than 90 percent) of seeds containing the patented genes. Monsanto also introduces as evidence, tests performed on seeds given to Monsanto by Humboldt Flour Mills (see Between April 24 and April 28, 1998), the company that had inoculated Schmeiser’s seeds prior to the 1998 planting season. Tests later performed on those seeds found that 95 to 98 percent of them contained Monsanto’s patented gene (see April 2000; (August 26, 1999)). [Toronto Star, 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Tests show high percentage of Roundup in Schmeiser's 1998 crop - Monsanto also presents evidence aimed at demonstrating that Schmeiser’s 1998 crop consisted almost entirely of plants containing Monsanto’s patented Roundup-resistant gene. As evidence, it cites tests performed on samples that were taken from Percy’s crop in the summer of 1998 (see August 12, 1998). The tests done by Aaron Mitchell of Monsanto on these samples indicated that between 92 and 97 percent of the seeds in the samples were resistant to Roundup (see January 1999). [Toronto Star, 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Schmeiser used Roundup on his 1998 crop - In an effort to prove that Schmeiser’s 1998 crop consisted mostly of Roundup Ready Canola and that Schmeiser sought to take advantage of its resistance to the herbicide, Monsanto cites the testimony of Wesley Niebrugge, a farmer and employee of the Esso bulk dealership in Bruno. Niebrugge claims that in 1997 and 1998 Schmeiser’s farm hand Carlyle Moritz told him that Schmeiser had sprayed his fields with Roundup after having seeded his fields with Roundup Ready Canola. Monsanto argues that in spite of Schmeiser’s claims that he did not use Roundup on his crops in 1998, there is no evidence that he used Muster and Assure herbicides as claimed. Furthermore, Monsanto provides evidence that Schmeiser purchased 720 liters of Roundup in 1998. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/17/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Roundup Ready Canola presence in Schmeiser's fields cannot be explained by windblown seed - Monsanto also argues that seed blown off the top of passing grain trucks could not have been responsible for the Roundup-resistant canola plants that Schmeiser found in his field more than 100 feet away from the road in 1997 (see Summer 1997). As evidence, Monsanto cites the testimony of Barry Hertz, a mechanical engineer hired by Monsanto because of his expertise in road vehicle aerodynamics. Hertz tells the court that according to his own calculations, canola seed blown off the top of a moving grain truck would fly no more than 8.8 meters from the road. His calculations are based on the weather conditions recorded at the Saskatoon airport in October and May of 1996, 100 kilometers away from Schmeiser’s farm. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/9/2000; Canadian Press, 6/9/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Schmeiser segregated his crop - Monsanto argues that Schmeiser segregated his crop when he chose to save and plant the seeds harvested from the same field where he knew Roundup Ready plants had grown. The company’s lawyer questions why he would have done so if he considered those plants to be a contaminant on his land. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/15/2000]
Defense Argument--Schmeiser did not undertake any deliberate action to obtain Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola - According to Schmeiser, the presence of Monsanto’s patented gene in his crop was not a result of any deliberate action he took. Rather he suggests that his crop was likely contaminated with Monsanto’s genes from wind-blown pollen or seed.
bullet Zakreski notes that there is no evidence whatsoever that Schmeiser illegally obtained Roundup Ready Canola seed. Monsanto has never identified anyone who may have sold Roundup Ready Canola seed to Schmeiser, and Schmeiser has never admitted to having acquired the seed. Monsanto employee Aaron Mitchell candidly testifies to this fact on the stand. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/9/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/13/2000]
bullet Percy Schmeiser’s field hand, Carlyle Moritz, testifies that swaths from a neighboring canola field planted with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola blew onto one of Schmeiser’s fields in 1996 (see Fall 1996). The swaths were subsequently picked up by a combine on Schmeiser’s fields and deposited in the grain bins on that field. The defense believes it is possible that some of the seed from that bin was used to plant Schmeiser’s 1997 crop. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 6 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser recalls that in 1997 (see Summer 1997), after spraying Roundup in his ditches and around telephone poles adjacent to his canola field, approximately 60 percent of the canola plants in that area survived. Curious about the possibility that his canola plants may have developed a resistance to Roundup, he sprayed a trial strip about 100 feet wide in one of the fields that is next to the road. The total area of the strip was a “good three acres,” he says. As a result of the spraying, roughly 40 percent of the canola plants died. The surviving 60 percent were scattered in clumps and were mostly concentrated near the road. He believes that the uneven presence of clumps that were thicker closest to the road and thinner towards the center of the field is evidence that plants had been sown from seed coming from the direction of the road, probably from seed blown off passing grain trucks in late 1996.
bullet Zakreski argues that Schmeiser’s plants may have been pollinated with pollen transported by wind or other means from a neighboring farm. He notes that Monsanto scientist Robert Horsch has acknowledged in court testimony that the company’s dominant Roundup-resistant gene would be present in any pollen from a Roundup Ready Canola plant and therefore could pollinate non-transgenic plants. Zakreski also cites the testimony of Monsanto witness Keith Downey that “one hungry bee” is capable of traveling a great distance. Even though Monsanto employee Aaron Mitchell testified that the closest field planted with Monsanto licensed Roundup Ready Canola seed was approximately five miles away, Zakreski notes that it is impossible to state for sure that someone was not illegally growing it closer. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 28 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 16 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser’s neighbor Elmer Borstmeyer testifies that he grew Roundup Ready Canola under agreement for four years beginning in 1996 and that he drove his truck by four of Schmeiser’s fields after harvest. He recalls that on one or two of his trips, the tarp was loose, and he believes he lost a lot of canola seed. “The tarp acted like a cyclone,” he said. “I lost some seed. That’s for sure” (see Fall 1996). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 50 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser’s lawyer cites other cases where farmers’ fields have been contaminated with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola, including farmers Charles Boser (see Summer 1999) and Louis Gerwing (see Summer 1999). He also notes that just a few weeks before, Canadian canola seeds sold to Europe by Advanta Canada were discovered to have been contaminated with a small percentage of genetically modified (GM) seeds (see May 2000). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000]
bullet Zakreski also addresses the various tests that were conducted on samples taken from Schmeiser’s 1997 and 1998 crops. Monsanto had used some of the tests as evidence to argue that more than 90 percent of the plants in some of Schmeiser’s fields contained Monsanto’s patented gene. Of the samples that were taken by Wayne Derbyshire in 1997 (see August 18, 1997) and used as the basis for two grow-out tests (see Fall 1997) (see January 24, 2000), and of the samples that were taken by Don Todd and James Vancha in 1998 (see August 12, 1998) and used for a grow-out test performed by Aaron Mitchell (see January 1999), Zakreski argues that they were all (1) taken illegally, and should not be admitted by the court; (2) taken using a methodology that was not intended to be representative of the fields from which they were taken; and (3) were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file]
bullet Of the samples that were handled by Aaron Mitchell before being sent to and tested by Keith Downey on January 24, 2000 (see January 24, 2000), Zakreski questions (1) why so many seeds were apparently missing from the coin envelopes; and (2) why there were cleaver seeds, debris, and cracked seeds present in this sample—presumed to have been taken directly from canola pods. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 18 pdf file]
bullet Zakreski also challenges the authenticity of seeds used in a grow-out test that was performed by Aaron Mitchell in January 1999 (see January 1999). He asks how it came to be that seeds Mitchell brought to Leon Perehudoff were clean when in fact the seeds in the original sample contained debris. Though Mitchell claims to have cleaned the seeds by hand in a matter of an hour, plant biologist Lyle Friesen, another witness, testifies that such a task should have taken “days” to do by hand. Zakreski also notes that is unclear why the seeds Mitchell planted enjoyed a 100 percent germination rate when Friesen and experts at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis were able to get only about half their seeds—presumably taken the same day as Mitchell’s seeds—to grow. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 23-25 pdf file]
bullet Additionally, Zakreski questions the authenticity of the seed samples that Monsanto obtained from Humboldt Flour Mills (see Between April 24 and April 28, 1998). The seeds tested by Monsanto had apparently been cleaned, when in fact the seeds supplied to the mill by Schmeiser (see April 24, 1998) were bin-run seeds full of chaff. No evidence is provided by the plaintiff to explain how the seeds cleaned themselves. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 19 pdf file]
Defense Argument--One must use a patented invention for there to be infringement - Zakreski argues that for a patent infringement to occur, one must use the invention. His argument can be summarized as thus: (1) Monsanto has a patent on a gene, not a plant; (2) it is not a patent infringement to merely possess a patented invention, one must either use, or intend to use, the patented invention in order for there to be an infringement; (3) the act of growing a plant that contains the patented gene does not imply the use of that gene since that gene is not needed for the plant to grow; (4) the use of a patented invention necessarily entails that the “object,” or “essence,” of a patent be utilized, which in this case is a cell’s resistance to Roundup; (5) to use Monsanto’s invention, one must therefore either use, or intend to use, Roundup on one’s crop; and (6) because Schmeiser did not use Roundup on his crop, he did not infringe on Monsanto’s patent. The evidence Zakreski provides to support this argument can be summarized as follows: (a) there was no motive for Schmeiser to acquire and use Monsanto’s patented technology; (b) Schmeiser did not attempt to segregate seed known to be Roundup-resistant from the rest of his seed and therefore had no intention of using the properties of Monsanto’s patented gene; and (c) Schmeiser’s 1998 crop was a mixture of Roundup-resistant and non-resistant canola plants and therefore Schmeiser derived no benefit from Monsanto’s technology; and (d) Schmeiser did not, in fact, use Roundup on his 1998 crop.
a -
bullet Using Roundup Ready Canola would have made it impossible for Schmeiser to grow canola back-to-back, his preferred method of growing canola (see 1994-1998). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2-3 pdf file]
bullet The only benefit of using Roundup Ready Canola is that it allows one to spray Roundup herbicide on one’s crop. Roundup can only be applied after the weeds have germinated and there is weed foliage to spray. Schmeiser prefers not to spray weeds in his crop at this late stage because it would allow the weeds to use much of the soil’s moisture that would otherwise be available to the crop. Instead, he uses products that can be incorporated into the soil, or that kill weeds as they germinate (see 1994-1998). Furthermore, Schmeiser notes that Roundup is thought to leave a residue in the soil that kills mycorrhiza, a beneficial fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients in the soil. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 3 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser prefers to save his seeds rather then buy new seeds each year, which he considers to be an unnecessary expense. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2 pdf file]
bullet There was nothing wrong with Schmeiser’s seed stock that would have warranted interest in acquiring new seed. Schmeiser’s crops have performed much better than others in the area and are relatively free of common diseases that affect canola. Schmeiser has never had to file an insurance claim for his crop and because of this he receives a discount on his crop insurance premium. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2 pdf file]
b -
bullet Zakreski notes that in 1997, Schmeiser made no attempt to segregate the Roundup-resistant plants from the non-resistant plants in his fields. His farmhand, Carlyle Moritz, saved the seed from both the area where Roundup-resistant crop was known to have grown and other areas where these plants were not known to have grown (see Fall 1997). In spring 1998, these seeds were combined with bin-run seeds from previous years to sow Schmeiser’s canola crop (see Spring 1998). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 11 pdf file]
c -
bullet Schmeiser’s attorney argues that Schmeiser had nothing to gain in planting a mixed crop of Roundup-resistant and non-resistant canola plants. “The advantage in growing Roundup Ready Canola is that a grower may spray in-crop with Roundup and achieve broad spectrum weed control. If a grower plants a crop which is a mixture of Roundup Ready and Roundup susceptible canola, he cannot spray in-crop with Roundup. To do so would be suicide.” [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 28-29 pdf file]
d -
bullet Schmeiser says that in 1998 the herbicides he used on his crops were the brand-names Muster and Assure. It would have made no sense, Zakreski argues, for Schmeiser to have knowingly planted Roundup Ready Canola. “It would make no sense if he knowingly proceeded to seed Roundup Ready Canola and not use Roundup,” notes Zakreski. [Leader Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), 6/13/2000] Schmeiser, however, as noted by the plaintiff, was unable to produce receipts showing he had used Muster and Assure on his canola. He explains that the Esso bulk dealership where he lives changed hands after 1998 and the new owners were unable to locate the receipts. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/15/2000]
bullet Weed ecology expert Rene Van Acker testifies that the test results from Manitoba (which identified the presence of non-resistant canola plants in a sample taken from Schmeiser’s fields) (see (August 26, 1999)) prove that Schmeiser did not spray his fields with Roundup. If he had sprayed his fields, he would have killed much of his crop. “It would make no sense for a producer to sow Roundup Ready Canola and not use Roundup,” Van Acker recently wrote in a report requested by the defense. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/17/2000]
bullet While Schmeiser did purchase 720 liters of Roundup in 1998, as noted by the plaintiff, Schmeiser says that he used this quantity of Roundup to clear his fields before spring planting and also to clear the weeds in the roadside ditches and around telephone poles. Schmeiser testifies that he would have used 515 liters of the herbicide to chem fallow his 1,030 acres leaving 205 liters for the ditches and right-of-ways. Zakreski’s final brief includes a table depicting Schmeiser’s use of the chemical in 1996, 1997, and 1998, demonstrating that the amount of Roundup used in 1998 was entirely consistent with the previous two years. Additionally, Schmeiser explains that if he had planted 100 percent Roundup Ready Canola that year, following Monsanto’s recommended application rate of 1 liter/acre, he would have needed an additional 1,000 liters, a claim that not one of Monsanto’s witnesses attempts to challenge. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 13 pdf file]
Defense Argument--Monsanto's patent does not confer property rights - Another argument advanced by Schmeiser’s attorney is that because Monsanto’s patent does not confer ownership rights of the gene to the company, only intellectual property rights, the insertion of that gene into someone’s plant cannot possibly make that plant property of Monsanto. If the pollen produced by a Roundup Ready Canola plant fertilizes a non-transgenic plant owned by another farmer, Monsanto can claim no property rights to the plant’s offspring. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
bullet In support of this argument, Zakreski cites the similarity of this case to “stray bulls” cases in which the owners of cows impregnated by stray bulls owned by someone else have successfully sued for damages on the basis that early breading stunted the growth of their cows. In no such cases, notes Zakreski, has an owner of a stray bull attempted to claim any rights to the stray bull’s offspring. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
bullet Zakreski also states that the law of admixture applies to this case. The premise of that law is as follows: “… where a man willfully causes or allows property of another to inter-mix with his own without the other’s knowledge or consent, the whole belongs to the latter…”. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
Defense Argument--Monsanto waved its patent rights when it released its invention unconfined into the environment - The defense also argues that Monsanto waived the patent rights on its invention when it failed to control the spread of its invention after it was released into the environment unconfined. The lawyer writes: “Had [Monsanto] maintained control over its invention, it may have maintained its exclusive rights. However, inventions do not usually spread themselves around. They do not normally replicate and invade the property and lands of others. Ever since regulatory approval for this invention was given, it has been released unconfined into the environment. Mr. Schmeiser has produced ample evidence of just how extensive the release is in the Rural Municipality of Bayne, where he farms. Any exclusive rights Monsanto may have had to its invention were lost when it lost control over the spread of its invention. Surely, the exclusive right to possess such an invention cannot be maintained if the spread of the invention cannot be controlled. The unconfined and uncontrolled release into the environment is an act by Monsanto completely inconsistent with its exclusive rights. It cannot on the one hand unleash self-propagating matter uncontrolled into the environment and then claim exclusively wherever it invades. It can, by this, be taken by its conduct to have waived its statutory rights.” Zakreski warns that giving Monsanto property rights to any and all genes or plants that result from the uncontrolled replication of its invention could potentially cause all Canadian canola farmers to lose their right to save and replant seed. “It can never be said with certainty that Monsanto’s gene will not soon be present on any canola field in western Canada. Accordingly, no farmer who saves and re-uses his seeds can be sure the Monsanto gene is not present in his seed supply.” Zakreski suggests: “Perhaps this is a benefit that Monsanto hoped to achieve by releasing their product into the environment without any control.” [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 39-41 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/22/2000] As evidence that Monsanto failed to control the spread of its invention, Schmeiser spends several hours showing the courtroom pictures he took in the vicinity where he lives of volunteer Roundup-resistant canola plants growing in ditches, flower beds, cemeteries, and roadways. He explains how he sprayed the plants with Roundup and then returned to see if they had survived. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000]
Defense Argument--Monsanto's patent is invalid; Monsanto's intellectual rights are protected under the Plant Breeders' Rights Act - Zakreski argues that a gene is “not the proper subject matter for a patent” and therefore the patent “should be declared invalid.” In support of this claim, he cites a federal appeals court’s 1998 decision in the case Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents). In that case, the judges ruled that “A complex life form does not fit within the current parameters of the Patent Act… .” Zakreski further argues that there already is legislation—the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act—that protects the intellectual property rights of those who develop new plant varieties. He notes that unlike the Patent Act, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act explicitly preserves farmers’ rights to save and re-plant their seed. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Rene Van Acker

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Ethics Panel meets in Rome to consider the ethical implications of recent advances in biotechnology. The panel is made up of world-renowned agronomists and ethicists. The focus of their discussion is on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Following the meeting, the panel prepares a report that includes a summary of its views and lists a number of recommendations. The overriding concern of the report, completed some time in 2001, is that there is an inherent conflict between the interests of the corporations developing the technology and the social issues that GMO defenders say the technology will address. The biotech industry’s primary concern is “to maximize profits,” not to address the needs of the world’s rural poor, the report says. The panel notes that the private sector receives more resources than the public sector for GMO research, and that in some cases, public resources are actually being diverted to support private sector priorities. Another problem, according to the panel, is that the adoption of GM crops could undermine farmers’ livelihoods. Noting the power and leverage enjoyed by industry, the panel’s report warns that seed companies “may gain too much control over the rights of local farmers” and create a dependency among the rural poor on imported seeds. This would especially be the case if the biotech industry were to move ahead with genetic use restriction technologies (GURT), more commonly known as terminator technology (see 1994 and after). “The Panel unanimously stated that the ‘terminator seeds’ are generally unethical, as it is deemed unacceptable to market seeds whose offspring a farmer cannot use again because the seeds do not germinate,” the report says. “GURTs are not inherent in genetic engineering. While corporations are entitled to make profits, farmers should not be forced to become dependent on the supplier for new seeds every planting season.” However the panel says it does believe there is potential for the ethical use of GURTs. According to the panel, “Where the concern is with possible outcrossing of crops, for example GMOs that could damage wild plant populations, GURTs might be justified. This may also apply elsewhere: when the primary concern is to prevent reproduction of farmed fish with wild populations, for example, then GURTs could be useful in protecting wild populations.” In conclusion, the panel stresses the need for independent, publicly-funded research on GMOs that is “directed to the needs and benefits of poor farmers, herders, foresters and fishers.” [Food and Agriculture Organization, 2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian Federal Judge Andrew MacKay rules in favor of Monsanto in its case against Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
Judge MacKay decides the following: -
bullet That all test results submitted to the court as evidence by Monsanto was admissible and worthy of consideration by the court. The test results had indicated that a high percentage (in most cases, more than 90 percent) of the seed present in several samples presumably taken from Schmeiser’s canola fields contained Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready gene. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) that the samples had been taken illegally and were invalid because they were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. Schmeiser’s lawyer also raised questions about the authenticity of the samples noting multiple contradictions in the observed properties of the samples as they changed possession from one person to another. The judge dismissed all of these concerns insisting that certain “conclusions of fact” could nonetheless be “drawn from evidence of the various tests.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 34 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
bullet That based on expert testimony and results from the tests on samples taken from Schmeiser’s property, “none of the suggested possible sources of contamination of Schmeiser’s crop was the basis for the substantial level of Roundup Ready canola growing in field number 2 in 1997.” (“Field number 2” is the field where Schmeiser discovered the presence of Roundup Canola in 1997 (see Summer 1997)) [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51 pdf file]
bullet That “the source of the Roundup-resistant canola in the defendants’ 1997 crop is really not significant for the resolution of the issue of infringement which relates to the 1998 crop.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51 pdf file]
bullet That Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted seed that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patented gene. Judge MacKay disagrees with the defense’s argument that in order to have used the essence of Monsanto’s patent, Schmeiser would have had to have applied Roundup to his crop. According to MacKay, the acts of replanting and selling the seed in and of themselves constituted use of the patent’s essence. “Growth of the seed, reproducing the patented gene and cell, and sale of the harvested crop constitutes taking the essence of the plaintiffs’ invention, using it, without permission.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51-53 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
bullet That the law of admixture and the precedent set by “stray bull” cases do not apply to this case. What distinguishes this case from cases where admixture is relevant, says MacKay, is that “Monsanto does have ownership in its patented gene and cell and pursuant to the [Patent] Act has the exclusive use of its invention.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 55-56 pdf file]
bullet That Monsanto’s patent is valid. MacKay rejects Zakreski’s argument that the Harvard Mouse case relates to this case in the way he described. Rather according to MacKay, while that case concerned the patent on an organism, this case concerns a gene, the process for its insertion, and the cell derived from that process. As such, the Harvard Mouse case “implicitly support[s] the grant of the patent to Monsanto.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40 pdf file]
bullet That Monsanto’s patent rights on its Roundup-resistant gene persist even after it has inserted itself into a plant owned by someone else. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) that Monsanto’s patent confers only intellectual property rights, not actual property ownership rights, of the gene to the company and that therefore the insertion of Monsanto’s patented gene into a plant owned by someone else does not make that plant or its offspring property of Monsanto. While Judge MacKay agrees with the defense that the property ownership rights over a plant would not change in such a case, MacKay says that the interest of the person who owns that plant would nonetheless be subject to Monsanto’s patent rights. “Thus,” writes Judge MacKay, “a farmer whose field contains seed or plants originating from seed spilled into them, or blown as seed, in swaths from a neighbor’s land or even growing from germination by pollen carried into his field from elsewhere by insects, birds, or by the wind, may own the seed or plants on his land even if he did not set about to plant them. He does not, however, own the right to the use of the patented gene, or of the seed or plant containing the patented gene or cell.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40-41 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001; Natural Life, 5/2001]
bullet That Monsanto did not implicitly waive its patent rights on the Roundup Ready gene because of any alleged failure to control the spread of its gene, as the defendant argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). According to Judge MacKay, Monsanto has taken adequate steps to control the spread of its product. He cites Monsanto’s efforts to limit the use of the invention to only those plots of land farmed by licensed farmers for which the technology use fee has been paid; the company’s efforts to enforce the terms of its Technology Use Agreement; and the company’s efforts to remove plants that have invaded the properties of other farmers. MacKay makes little of the several photographs that Schmeiser had taken of Roundup-resistant Canola volunteers that he discovered scattered though out his community. [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40-44 pdf file]
bullet To issue an injunction barring Schmeiser from planting “any seed saved from plants which are known or ought to be known to be Roundup tolerant, and from selling or otherwise depriving the plaintiffs of their exclusive right to use plants which the defendants know or ought to know are Roundup tolerant, or using the seeds from such plants.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 55 pdf file]
bullet That Schmeiser’s unauthorized use of Monsanto’s patented gene entitles the company to the profit realized by Schmeiser as a result of the sale of his 1998 crop, plus interest. However Judge MacKay believes that Monsanto has overstated Schmeiser’s profit because it did not factor in his labor as an expense. MacKay also disagrees with the plaintiff that exemplary damages are warranted in this case. MacKay gives Schmeiser and Monsanto three weeks to agree on the value of Schmeiser’s 1998 profit. If they cannot come to an agreement by then, Schmeiser is to pay Monsanto the sum of $15,450 CAD, or $15 CAD/acre planted and harvested in 1998. [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 56-60 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Andrew MacKay

Timeline Tags: Seeds

(Show related quotes)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) passes conference resolution 3/2001, approving the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, popularly known as the International Seed Treaty. The vote is almost unanimous with only two countries abstaining: the United States and Japan. [The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 11/3/2001 pdf file; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] The treaty—under negotiation for seven years [Financial Times, 11/6/2001] —requires countries to share the genetic resources of all seed varieties from 35 food crops and 29 forage crops, officially designating them as part of the global commons. The seeds will be deposited in a network of seed banks for use by all member countries, free of charge, for research and experimental plant breeding. The treaty prohibits using the seeds for chemical or pharmaceutical research. Companies using the seed for commercial purposes are required to pay an equitable share of the resulting profits to a trust fund, which will finance efforts to improve the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in developing countries. A multilateral system will be set up to facilitate countries’ access to the 64 selected crops. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Reuters, 11/5/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001; Food and Agriculture Organization, 6/29/2004] The treaty also affirms farmers’ rights “to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making regarding, and in the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture… .” [Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 pdf file] The US refusal to sign the treaty was based on its concern that the treaty does not do enough to respect intellectual property rights. Specifically, the US wanted “WTO rules on intellectual property rights [to] be applied without modification to the new treaty,” according to the Financial Times. It also wanted any references critical of intellectual property scrubbed from the text. But the Chair, Ambassador Fernando Gerbasi of Venezuela, would not permit it. The US, along with countries like Australia, expressed concerns during negotiation that there would be little incentive for biotech companies to invest in crop research if they were required to share their patented GM genes. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] Additionally, the US wanted a provision in the treaty that would have allowed for germplasm embargos against Cuba or other “enemies” of “enduring freedom.” [ETC Group, 11/4/2001] The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 48th country ratifies it. [Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Australia, Japan, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bush administration (43), United States

Timeline Tags: Seeds, Food Safety

A study conducted by three University of Manitoba biologists finds that contamination of Pedigreed canola seed with seeds containing transgenic genes is widespread. In the study, seed was collected from several pedigreed seed lots that were supposed to be free of genetically altered genes that make plants herbicide-resistant. The seeds were used to plant 33 fields, which were then sprayed with Roundup, Liberty, and the Smart-trait herbicide. After the herbicide application, only one field contained no survivors. Of the 27 seedlots, 14 had contamination levels exceeding 0.25 percent and therefore failed the 99.75 percent cultivar purity guideline for certified canola seed. For three of the seedlots, contamination levels were higher than 2.0 percent. “That means one wrong seed in 400, if a farmer is seeding between 100 and 120 seeds per square yard. That means you would have a Roundup-resistant plant every couple of square yards,” explains plant biologist Lyle Friesen. “In a less competitive crop where you can mix products like 2,4-D or MCPA, that becomes a real problem and the volunteers set seed and become a real problem for next year.” Friesen tells the Manitoba Co-operator that, as far as canola is concerned, the “genie may be out of the bottle.” [Manitoba Co-operator, 8/1/2002; Friesen, Nelson, and van Acker, 2003]

Entity Tags: Lyle Friesen, Rene Van Acker

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Federal Court of Canada Justice Andrew MacKay orders Percy Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $153,000 CAD in order to compensate the company for a portion of its legal costs. Monsanto sued Schmeiser in 2000 (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) for illegally planting and harvesting canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. This sum of money is in addition to the $19,832 CAD that Schmeiser has already been ordered to pay the company (see May 23, 2001). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Terry Zakreski

Timeline Tags: Seeds

An ad hoc expert panel created by the sixth conference of the Biodiversity Convention convenes in Montreal to consider the impact that genetic use restriction technology (GURT), also known as terminator technology, would have on small farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities. The expert panel hears from 11 groups including the US, Canada, two individual farmers, an indigenous rights group, four civil society organizations, the International Seed Federation, and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). [Collins and Krueger, n.d. pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003; Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The paper presented by UPOV, completed in January (see January 10, 2003), is not well-received by the US or industry representatives. Though the UPOV is generally an ardent supporter of intellectual rights protections, its analysis argues that GURT technology could threaten the interests of small farmers. The paper is so unwelcome, in fact, that the US and the International Seed Federation will succeed in pressuring the UPOV to revise it (see March 13, 2003-April 11, 2003), eliminating all references to GURT from the body of the paper. Prepared by Monsanto’s Roger Krueger and Harry Collins of Delta & Pine Land (D&PL), the International Seed Federation’s analysis takes the position that GURT technology would be advantageous for small farmers. Their paper argues that GURT would benefit small farmers and indigenous peoples by providing them with more options. “The International Seed Federation (ISF) believes that GURTs have the potential to benefit farmers and others in all size, economic and geographical areas… In reality, the potential effects of the GURTs may be beneficial to small farmers… ,” the paper asserts. “It is the strong belief and position of the ISF that GURTs would potentially provide more choice, to the farmers, rather than less choice.” Kruefer and Collins also say the technology could be used to prevent the contamination of non-transgenic plants with genetically modified genes and thus could be “quite positive for the environment and biodiversity.” [Collins and Krueger, n.d. pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003; Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The expert panel’s final report will list 35 “potential negative impacts” of GURT on small farmers and local communities and only nine “potential positive impacts.” It will recommend, among other things, “that parties and other governments consider the development of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for field-testing and commercial use.” [Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Seed Federation, International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Roger Krueger, Harry B. Collins

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canada’s seed industry forms a group to review and recommend changes to the regulatory framework governing Canada’s seed sector. The group is a joint venture of the Canadian Seed Growers Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, and the Grain Growers of Canada. It is funded with a $600,000 CAD grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund. [Seed Sector Review, 5/5/2004 pdf file; Seed Sector Review, 5/5/2004 pdf file] The initiative is primarily concerned with improving the profitability of the seed sector and intends to examine ways to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights through patents, royalties, and other changes that would make it more difficult for farmers to save seed. [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Canadian Seed Growers Association, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Seed Institute, Grain Growers of Canada, Seed Sector Review

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Paul Bremer, the US administrator for Iraq, issues Order 81 rewriting Iraq’s 1970 patent law. The order extends intellectual property right protections to plants, making it illegal for Iraqi farmers to save, share, or replant seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. The order was written with the help of Linda Lourie, an attorney-advisor in the US Patent Office’s Office of External Affairs. She was invited to Iraq to help draft laws that would ensure Iraq’s eligibility into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Bremer’s order, however, makes Iraq’s patent law stricter even than the WTO-compliant 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (see March 19, 1991), which allows its member-states to exempt farmers from the prohibition against seed saving. Lourie claims these changes were sanctioned by the Iraqi governing council, which she says wants Iraq to have the strongest intellectual property rules in the region in order to attract private investment. [Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, 4/4/2004 pdf file; GRAIN, 10/2004; National Public Radio, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: L. Paul Bremer, Linda Lourie

Timeline Tags: Seeds, Iraq under US Occupation

The Seed Sector Review, an industry-led initiative to restructure Canada’s seed and grain quality assurance systems (see (July 2003)), releases its phase one final report. [Inter Press Service, 10/5/2004; Natural Life, 1/2005] The report, titled Report of the Seed Sector Advisory Committee, includes several recommendations:
bullet The report expresses the view that the farmer’s “privilege” of saving and replanting seeds discourages private sector investment and makes it difficult for companies to “recoup” their investments. The report suggests developing a new system of relations between the farmer and the seed companies that would be more “equitable.” Such a method would “involve examining the balance between farmer’s privilege and breeders’ rights.” One possible solution would be to collect royalties on seed saved by farmers. “Suggestions were made that royalties could be collected through elevators or seed processors or through CWB contract programs,” the report says. [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 33 pdf file]
bullet The report notes that many participants of the Seed Sector Review would prefer that farmers be required to use certified seed. It cites several reasons why this would be desirable, including “improved intellectual property protection (and royalty collection), which would in turn support (fund) more research”; “a healthier seed grower and trade industry”; “more private sector involvement in Western Canada cereal breeding”; “elimination of the controversial brown bag market for sales of common seed”; “improved agricultural practices”; “improved confidence for quality assurance in the value chain”; and “increased profitability for the higher generation seed production and variety developers.” The report suggests several strategies that could be employed to compel farmers to buy certified seeds. Among those listed are “link crop insurance premiums with use of certified seed”; “increase the perceived value of certified seed”; collect royalties; “require specific standards on common seed” that would make it more costly for farmers to sell their own seed; and limit “the number of generations produced from certified seed,” which the reports notes would also result in common seed becoming “too expensive, making certified seed more economical.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 42 pdf file]
bullet The report notes that participants in the review would like to see the current wheat quality system, based on kernel visual distinguishability (KVD), replaced with a new system. They complain that KVD is a “stumbling block to innovation.” Several suggestions for an alternative system are made in the report. The report acknowledges that moving to a new system would be costly and suggests that this should be paid in part with public funds. “There should be some level of public investment in its development and implementation to support the competitive position of Canadian exports.” According to Canada’s National Farmers Union (NFU), the alternative systems suggested in the document “would increase farmers’ costs for administration, testing, segregation, identity preservation, dispute settlement, and transport costs.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 41 pdf file]
bullet The report considers the advantages that seed producers would have if Canada were to make its Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) Act compliant with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention (UPOV) of 1991 (see March 19, 1991). The 1991 UPOV is much more restrictive for farmers than the 1978 UPOV, upon which Canada’s PBR Act is currently based. Adopting the 1991 UPOV for the PBR’s framework would, among other things, lengthen plant breeders’ protection and royalty periods from 15 years to 20 years; take away farmers’ automatic right—protected in UPOV ‘78—to save, re-use, and sell seed (which is referred to as the “Farmers’ Exemption” in the UPOV Convention) [National Farmers Union, 5/13/2004, pp. 3-4 pdf file] ; create “a cascade right to extend PBR to harvested material and end products in crops where breeders did not have the opportunity to exercise his [sic] rights on propagating material” (The seed companies would need this change in order to collect royalties at elevators and seed cleaning facilities); and pave the way for seed companies to patent seed already protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act. The report notes that participants in the review were highly supportive of the proposal to adopt the 1991 UPOV (see March 19, 1991). “[T]his change should be made as soon as possible.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 32-34 pdf file]
Reaction - The Seed Sector Review is not well received in the farming community. The Sakatoon-based National Farmers Union launches a “seed saver” campaign to rally farmers against the seed industry’s proposed changes. The farmers see the review’s recommendations as an effort to further privatize the commons, and to increase corporate profits at the expense of growers. Most of their fury is focused on changes that would compel farmers to purchase certified seed by making it more difficult to save, trade, and replant their own seeds. “There’s lots of seed trading among farmers here. We rarely buy certified seed for cereals. It’s rarely better seed and just not necessary,” says Paul Beingessner, a third-generation grain and livestock farmer from Saskatchewan. Beingessner calculates that if the recommendations were implemented, the average Canadian farm’s expenses would increase by $1,400 CAD. “It’s a money grab, pure and simple,” Beingessner says. Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, a Canadian civil society organization, says the Seed Sector Review contradicts the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (see November 3, 2001), which came into force in June (see June 29, 2004). That treaty reaffirmed farmers’ rights to save, trade, and replant seed. Canada ratified the treaty on October 6, 2002. [Inter Press Service, 10/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Seed Sector Review

Timeline Tags: Seeds

(Show related quotes)

The International Seed Treaty enters into force. The treaty, approved in November 2001 (see June 29, 2004), creates a mechanism for the global management and sharing of 64 major crops and forages, providing some measure of insurance against the risks posed by the loss of agricultural biodiversity. It also affirms farmers’ rights to save, trade, and replant their seeds. [Food and Agriculture Organization, 6/29/2004]

Timeline Tags: Seeds

At the tenth meeting of the Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok, the Canadian delegation proposes that the Scientific Body recommend lifting the de facto ban on field trials and commercialization of terminator seeds and encourage research participation of private sector entities. Terminator technology is opposed by most non-industrialized countries and a number of organizations that advocate for farmers’ rights and food security. Many of these parties learned of Canada’s intention to oppose the ban before the meeting from a leaked Canadian government memo (see Before February 7, 2005). In the memo, Canada had instructed its delegates to block consensus on the issue if countries refused to lift the ban. Canada’s proposal is nonetheless shot down by delegates from Norway, Sweden, Austria, the European Community, Cuba, Peru, and Liberia. The Scientific Body agrees to recommend that CBD members should reaffirm the de facto ban (see May 15-May 26, 2000) on field testing and commercialization of terminator seeds. This recommendation, along with those in a 2004 UN report (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003) and the future recommendations of the “Working Group on Article 8(j)” (see September 3, 2002), will be submitted for consideration at the next meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2006. [ETC Group, 2/26/2004; Convention on Biodiversity, 2/11/2005; Inter Press Service, 2/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice

Timeline Tags: Seeds

About 70 indigenous leaders representing 26 Andean and Amazon communities meet in the Peruvian mountain village of Choquecancha for two days to draft a report on the potential impacts terminator seeds would have on their communities if the international moratorium on the technology were to be lifted. The report will be submitted to a UN working group which has been tasked with examining “the potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies on indigenous and local communities.” The UN working group will submit recommendations to the next conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity which will decide whether or not to continue its de facto ban on terminator seeds. The meeting of indigenous leaders is held under the auspices of the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) and the International Institute for Environment and Development. The indigenous leaders say in their report that they are concerned that pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life. Another worry is that use of the technology would increase their dependence on the seed industry, a conclusion that was also reached by the UN Agriculture and Food Organization’s Ethics Panel in 2000 (see September 26, 2000-September 28, 2000). The group says the expansion of monocultural farming and the use of terminator technology could put the region’s 3,000 varieties of potato at risk. The indigenous leaders say they are especially concerned about a patent that has been obtained by Syngenta on technology that would be used to produce sterile potato seeds. Syngenta’s seeds would only grow if treated with chemicals. “Terminator seeds do not have life,” says Felipe Gonzalez of the indigenous Pinchimoro community. “Like a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.” [Development, 9/27/2005 pdf file; Inter Press Service, 10/11/2005; International Institute for Environment and Development, 10/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Aymara, Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development, Quechua, International Institute for Environment and Development

Timeline Tags: Seeds

At a UN meeting in Granada, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s “Working Group on Article 8(j)” meets ahead of the Convention’s eighth biennial meeting to discuss implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention, as requested by the seventh conference of the Convention that took place in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur. [Convention on Biodiversity, 2/20/2004] Article 8(j) of the convention calls on member countries to protect the traditional knowledge, innovation, and practices of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers. One of the group’s tasks is to “consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies on indigenous and local communities” and make a recommendation based on three previous UN reports (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003; February 7, 2005; September 26, 2000-September 28, 2000) and official submissions from indigenous peoples and farmers’ organizations (see September 26, 2005-September 27, 2005). In every one of these reports, terminator technology was considered a threat to the poor. In spite of this, the Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian governments, guided by a US representative (the US has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity) and industry lobbyists, push to make the Working Group’s recommendations supportive of terminator technology. Lobbyists for the seed companies include Harry Collins, vice president of Delta & Pine Land, and Roger Krueger of Monsanto. Delta & Pine Land jointly holds three patents on terminator technology with the US Department of Agriculture. According to the ETC Group, a Canadian-based organization opposed to terminator seeds whose representatives are present at this meeting, “With a US government official consulting at her side, the Australian negotiator insisted on deleting reference to the ‘precautionary approach’ and used this as a bargaining chip to win controversial wording for a ‘case-by-case risk assessment’ of terminator.” However, the efforts of these countries to draft a recommendation that would weaken the moratorium on terminator seeds are opposed by the majority of other parties, including Spain, the African Group, Egypt, the Philippines, Norway, Pakistan, Kenya, India, and Brazil. [ETC Group, 1/27/2006; National Farmers Union, 1/27/2006; Canadian Press, 1/30/2006] Australia refuses to budge and it is finally agreed to revise the recommendation to say that further research on terminator technology should include “a case-by-case risk assessment basis with respect to different categories of GURTs technology subject to the precautionary approach.” [Convention on Biodiversity, 1/27/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Brazil, Working Group on Article 8(j), Australia, Canada, Harry B. Collins, New Zealand, Spain, Philippines, India, Kenya, Norway, Pakistan, Roger Krueger, Egypt

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The European Parliament passes a resolution calling on member countries to uphold the moratorium on terminator technology at this month’s conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The resolution—passed with a 419-1-5 vote—urges European countries to “reject any proposals to undermine the moratorium on the field-testing and marketing of so-called terminator technologies…” It specifically denounces the efforts in January by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to exempt terminator seeds from the ban on a “case-by-case” basis (see January 23, 2006-January 27, 2006). [European Union Parliament, 3/16/2006; Ban Terminator, 3/16/2006; Inter Press Service, 3/24/2006]

Entity Tags: European Parliament

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto announces that it will purchase Delta & Pine Land Company, the world’s largest cotton seed company, and the first company to obtain a patent on terminator technology (see March 3, 1998). Monsanto has had its sights on Delta & Pine Land for years. A previous plan to buy the company—announced in 1998 (see May 11, 1998)—fell through in December 1999 (see December 19, 1999). The acquisition means that Monsanto will control over 57 percent of the US cotton seed market. It will also deepen Monsanto’s reach into the developing world, where Delta & Pine Land has subsidiaries in 13 countries—including India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and Pakistan. According to the ETC Group, an outspoken critic of terminator technology, “the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world’s most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.” [Monsanto, 8/15/2006; ETC Group, 8/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike