| Monsanto vs Schmeiser |
The Classic David vs Goliath Struggle.....
|The Conflict |
Setting The Stage
Audio courtesy of Andrew Wood, producer of a recent interview of Percy Schmeiser that was conducted in England
A long time farmer and farm equipment dealer from the small rural community of Bruno Sask. He served as Mayor of the Town of Bruno from 1966-1983 and as a MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for the Watrous constituency in the Provincial Legislature from 1967-71.
Excerpt from Aug 14, 1999 Vancouver Sun article by Dave Margoshes
"Percy Schmeiser was mad as hell, and decided he wasn't going to take it.
Schmeiser has been growing canola -- the yellow-blossomed oilseed that used to be known as rapeseed -- for 40 years, and he knows his stuff. He's been experimenting, developing his own varieties, using his own seed and generally prospering with canola. reaping the benefits derived from growing an increasingly popular crop.
So when Monsanto, the giant multinational agro-chemical company that is at the forefront of developing genetically modified foods, accused him of patent infringement and demanded restitution for its seeds, his pride was hurt. He chose to fight rather than roll over and take it."
Excerpt from Aug 14, 1999 Vancouver Sun article by Dave Margoshes.
"Monsanto, headquartered in St.Louis, makes the popular herbicide Roundup. Farmers all over the Prairies ---Schmeiser among them --- spray it on their fields, whereupon it kills every-thing growing there. Then they plant.
Using the controversial alchemy of genetic engineering, which has alarmed environmentalists and consumers, Monsanto has developed a canola seed completely immune to Roundup. That means a farmer can spray the herbicide over a planted field, kill all the weeds growing there, but not hurt the crop -- as long as it comes from Monsanto's seed.
The company sells the seed -- about half the canola planted in Saskatchewan this year comes from it -- but keeps the rights to the DNA itself.
It means that, rather than save seeds from last year's crop to use this year, as many do -- and as Schmeiser traditionally does -- farmers have to buy new seed from Monsanto each year.
In order to protect its investment, Monsanto has been vigilant in rooting out frugal farmers who might be cheating and saving seed, or borrowing a bit of seed from neighbours.
Farmers buying Monsanto's seed must sign a contract promising to buy fresh seed every year. And they must let Monsanto inspect their fields."
Excerpt from Macleans Magazine May 17, 1999. Article by Mark Nichols
"For 40 years, Percy Schmeiser has grown canola on his farm near Bruno, Sask., about 80 km east of Saskatoon, usually sowing each crop of the oil-rich plants with seeds saved from the previous harvest. And he has never, says Schmeiser, purchased seed from the St. Louis, Mo.-based agricultural and biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. Even so, he says that more than 320 hectares of his land is now "contaminated" by Monsanto's herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready canola, a man made variety produced by a controversial process known as genetic engineering. And, like hundreds of other North American farmer, Schmeiser has felt the sting of Monsanto's long legal arm: last August the company took the 68-year-old farmer to court, claiming he illegally planted the firm's canola without paying a $37-per-hectare fee for the privilege. Unlike scores of similarly accused North American farmers who have reached out-of-court settlements with Monsanto, Schmeiser fought back. He claims Monsanto investigators trespassed on his land -- and that company seed could easily have blown on to his soil from passing canola-laden trucks. "I never put those plants on my land," says Schmeiser. "The question is, where do Monsanto's rights end and mine begin?"
The landmark case, that went before the Federal Court of Canada, has attracted international attention because it could help determine how much control a handful of powerful biotech companies can exert over farmers.
Schmeiser pleased with victory over Monsanto
In an out of court settlement finalized on March 19, 2008, Percy Schmeiser has settled his lawsuit with Monsanto. Monsanto has agreed to pay all the clean-up costs of the Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Schmeiser's fields. Also part of the agreement was that there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred. Schmeiser believes this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted GMO plants.