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The Canadian Canola Controversy

The Role of Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture


Susan E. Gass
Environmental Science Program
Dalhousie University
Danielle Scriven
Marine Affairs Program
Dalhousie University


This case study reviews a controversial court case that took place in Canada in 2002 concerning an allegation of patent infringement and a genetically modified (GM) canola crop. The multi-national company Monsanto, which produces GM canola seeds called Roundup Ready®, sued Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser for growing the crop on his farm without a contract. The defendant maintained that the crop seed blew onto his property without his knowledge. In this case study, students learn about the history of seed development and why we use pesticides in agricultural systems as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks of pesticides to society and the environment. They are then presented with the details of the court case and assigned stakeholder roles.  Each stakeholder group considers what the outcome of the court case means for their group. The case concludes with a class discussion in which each stakeholder group shares their views. Originally designed for an introductory environmental science course, the case could also be used in an introductory biology or genetics course.


  • Examine the interaction between agriculture and genetically modified organisms and its implications for society.
  • Think critically about a controversial issue grounded in science.
  • Interpret information from various sources.
  • Analyze an issue from multiple perspectives.


GMO; genetically modified organism; genetically modified crop; environmental impacts of agriculture; canola

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Agriculture  |   Biology (General)  |   Biotechnology  |   Environmental Science  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Science (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Percy Schmeiser--David versus Monsanto
    This trailer for the 2009 documentary film of the same name gives an introduction to the story on which this case study is based. Running time: 7:22 min. Produced by DenkmalFilm, 2009.