The Classic David vs Goliath Struggle.....
Ready to Wage War
19 July 2001
By Murray Lyons, Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Fresh from it's battle with Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto is set to tangle in court with another Saskatchewan farmer who it alleges has illegally grown Round ready canola.
The Company says it's now prepared to take on a number of farmers in several regions of the Prairies to stop patent infringement of the gene it has licensed to seed companies and other Prairie farmers.
The company filed suit in Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon last week against Yorkton area farmer Kelly Ryczak. It wants an injunction to stop Ryczak from growing canola varieties, including a patented gene that makes the canola resistant to the herbicide Roundup or other generic glyphosate sprays. Monsanto states Ryczak infringed its patent on his crops in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
The statement of claim says Ryczak "improperly obtained glyphosate-resistant canola seeds" from his father Metro Ryczak or from several other farmers who had been granted a license to plant such seeds by Monsanto.
Last year, the company took on Schmeiser, a Bruno-area farmer, in a well-publicized court case. Schmeiser is now appealing a Federal Court of Canada decision that he violated the Monsanto patent on its canola gene.
"We did have a number of people waiting in the queue, but (Schmeiser) was the first case where we attempted to find out if the patent was valid," said Monsanto Canada spokesperson Trish Jordan.
"You don't know how strong that patent really is until somebody violates it and it's upheld in a court of law."
Jordan said upholding the company's patent in the Schmeiser case has resulted in the company pursuing a number of other cases across the Prairies that it has been investigating.
"Schmeiser was the first case that went to trial. We had a number of people similar to this Kelly Ryczak who we know are obviously using the technology or have somehow obtained the technology.
Some of them are a little more shy than others. Some of them take the approach, 'catch me if you can.'"
Jordan says that after the Schmeiser verdict the company decided it would follow through where it had gathered evidence. Without naming a specific figure, she acknowledged there is more than just a handful of legal cases ongoing.
Monsanto: Firm aware of 'blatant violators'
Jordan said the Yorkton area and the Peace River area in Alberta have tended to be a "hot area" for Monsanto investigators to follow up on patent infringement allegations.
The company's investigative procedures were outlined at length at the Schmeiser trial and reported on extensively in both the daily news media and the farm press.
Even so, Jordan says it isn't a surprise that some farmers still attempt to grow the crop without paying Monsanto the $15-an-acre technology fee.
"We've been more than aware there are a number of blatant violators," she said, adding this annoys users who pay the fee and who provide many of the tips to Monsanto about potential violators.
"For the people who are using the technology and paying for it, that's a message we hear loud and clear every single day," she said.
The court case against Ryczak appears to have one element so far the Schmeiser case did not.
Monsanto never stated in any court document who it alleged had provided Schmeiser with any seed in 1997.
Schmeiser himself has always claimed that his fields must have become contaminated from seed which blew off trucks or from cross pollination.
Evidence in the trial suggested Schmeiser saved seed from plants which he had sprayed with Roundup from one specific area of his canola fields in 1997 and then seeded more than 400 hectares in 1998 with that particular seed.
In the Ryczak case, not only does Monsanto claim he obtained the seed from his father, it also claims the farmer sold the seed to other parties and made a profit.
Ryczak who farms near the village of Springside just west of Yorkton did not return phone calls about the lawsuit.
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