Pirate or Prophet? Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser

AuthorPatricia L. Farnese
Pirate or Prophet?
TS  C  Canada’s (SCC) decision in MonsantoCanadaIncvSch-
meiseris likely most remembered for what it did not decide. By beginning
the majority’s decision with an outline of what the court would not address,
McLachlin CJ and Fish J, clearly understood that much of the public’s inter
weemphasize from theoutset that weare notconcer nedhere with thei n
entspatent orthe wisdom andsoc ialuti lityof the geneticmodicat ionof
genesa ndcells  apractice authorized by Parliamentu nderthe PatentAct
and its regu lations.
Nonetheless, the story of Monsantov Schme iser is as much the story of
howthiscasedrewg lobalaentiontothesebroaderissuesasitisaboutthe
narrow issue of patent infringement. Th is story is also about two fascinat
ing protagonists, Monsanto and Percy Schmeiser, in what has often be en
described asa modern balebetween David andGoliath For many, Sch
meiser, like David, remains a folk hero whose ongoing public life continues
M agricultural biotechnologycompanyItsnet
sales from its seeds and genomics and agric ultural productivity divisions
wereclosetobil lionUSD The seeds and genomics divi sion sells prod
ucts with biotechnology traits while t he agricultural productivity divi sion
mainly refers to the company’s agricultural chemical bu siness. The com
pany’s sale of glyphosate, branded as Roundup, constitutes the majority of
its chemical business. Monsanto’s commodity crop seeds — such as can
olacoonsoybeansand cornareglobal lyavailable Monsanto’s global
reach comes through both the di rect marketing of its own branded seeds
and chemicals, and thr ough the licensing of its patented technology and
genetic material to other companies.
Monsanto, however, did not begin as an agriculture company and for
many, what Monsanto was cannot be sepa rated from what Monsanto has
becomeInJohnFQueenyformedacompanyandpurchasedt hema
terials and technology to produce sacchar ine. Queeny chose to use his wife
Olga’s maiden name, Monsanto, as his new company’s name. Derived from
benzoicsulmidea ndsignicantlysweeter thansucroseQ ueenyhopedto
provide a local source of saccharine in t he US. His investment was rewarded
when The Coca Cola Co. purchased all of the saccha rine Monsanto produced
inand ByMonsant ohaddevelop edothe rchem icaladdit ives
for use in food products including vanil linandcaeine
Fueled by its success in the food additive business, Monsanto continued
to expand and diversify its chemical busi ness. Monsanto began to manufac
turesty reneandpolystyrene plasticswhichby theswerethecent ral
focusofitsbusine ssInMonsantohadthem isfortuneofbecomi ngin
volved in what has been described as the “most devastating industrial acci
dent in US history.” A French freighter, the S.S.Grandcamp, was unloading
Monsanto was located dockside. Thus, when the S.SGrandcamp ex ploded,
itt riggered res at the Monsanto facility resu lting in hundreds of deaths
and thousands of injuries. In addition to the loss of many of its employees,
Monsantospolystyrenefacilitysueredconsiderabledamageand released
fueloilbenzeneandstyreneintotheenvironment The Texas City disaster
introduced most of the public to Monsanto.
Monsanto’s involvement with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during
thesandslikelyunderliessomeofthepublicdist rustofMonsanto

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT