Pick of the postbag

Published: Friday 31 December 2004

It was a biased projection Apropos 'Patent problem' gm canola purchased illegally". Ironically, the records of the court depict a different picture. Aaron Mitchell, the lead investigator for Monsanto in the case, told the trial court under oath that the company had no proof of anyone selling the seeds to Schmeiser. In the Supreme Court, the "illegal purchase" was not even mentioned once.

Shantharam indeed is anxious to write off the gm contamination found on Schmeiser's farm by labelling it as a deliberate purchase. Reason -- the most likely alternative is gene contamination from fields operated by Monsanto licensees; Shantharam dismisses this as a concoction of the anti- gm lobby. In fact, gene drift is the only probable explanation for the gm seeds found on Schmeiser's farm. No evidence has been provided to support any other logical reason.

Unlike the assertion of Shantharam, Schmeiser did not lose his case because he was unable to prove that the pollen had drifted to his field. The court decided that he knowingly 'replanted' the gm seed; replanting knowingly, the court ruled, constituted an infringement of Monsanto's patent. But the court also added: "Farmers suffering from gm contamination without knowingly using the resultant seed would not be guilty of infringing Monsanto's patent."

As a former employee of the biotech giant Syngenta, it is but natural for Shantharam to overlook these important points in the court's decision.

PHILIP BEREANO, University of Washington, USA and JONATHAN MATHEWS, GM watch, USA

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