10 Misconceptions About GMOs

If Patented GMO Seeds Accidentally Grow on Your Property, You Could Be Sued
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser gestures during an interview in New Delhi in 2007. Since losing a series of court battles with Monsanto, Schmeiser has been travelling the world speaking against genetically modified crops and patenting seeds. MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images

Like many of the fears about GMOs, this is one that has a germ of truth in it. In 1999, agribusiness giant Monsanto sued a Canadian organic canola farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for growing the company's pesticide-tolerant canola without paying the required fees. The farmer, in his defense, argued that he hadn't planted any of the company's GMO canola seeds, and that they must have blown onto his property.

What actually happened is still in dispute. But ultimately, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that although 95 percent of the canola plants on Schmeiser's farm had grown from Monsanto seeds, he didn't owe the Monsanto any royalties because he did not benefit from them. The company ended up paying him $660, the amount Schmeiser spent to remove the plants [source: Hartley]. On its Web site, Monsanto says that it only pursues legal action against farmers who've purchased patented GMO seeds and then violated the terms of use that bar them from saving and replanting seeds produced by the plants.

An NPR journalist who investigated the issue of windblown seeds in 2012, reported that he didn't find any cases where Monsanto had sued anyone over trace amounts of seeds introduced through cross-pollination [source: Charles].