Canadian anti-GMO farmer
rejoins Monsanto battle

  May 15th, 2002:- Reuter Company News

Percy Schmeiser:-
"Getting ready to go back into battle again,"

The Saskatchewan farmer made news around the world in his five-year fight against Monsanto whose Roundup Ready crop varieties are used by thousands of farmers in Canada and around the world.

The Canadian farm crusader against genetically modified crops was set to resume his David and Goliath court battle against Monsanto Co. on Wednesday to appeal a decision that he infringed on the biotech giant's Roundup Ready patent.

Monsanto took Schmeiser to court after it discovered its patented transgenic canola growing on his farm. Schmeiser had not signed a C$15 ($9.60) per acre agreement with the company to grow the canola, which is genetically modified to tolerate the Roundup herbicide, facilitating weed control.

At his trial, Schmeiser said that he had spent 40 years cultivating his own, conventional canola varieties, saving seed from one crop to plant the next.

Schmeiser also testified that he did not know how the genetically modified plants ended up on his farm. He has suggested that seeds blew off passing trucks, or pollen from nearby farms was carried in by wind, insects or birds.

Last March, a Federal Court judge ruled that Schmeiser knew or ought to have known that he had saved and planted seed that was Roundup tolerant.

Justice Andrew MacKay also found that while farmers can generally own the seeds or plants grown on their land if they are blown or carried in from elsewhere, but not when it comes to genetically modified seed.

MacKay also ordered Schmeiser to pay Monsanto court costs of C$153,000 ($98,000) as well as the profits from his 1998 canola crop, worth about C$20,000.

The ruling, however, did little to dissuade Schmeiser from his cause.

"It's such an important issue now, in regards to the patenting of life-giving forms, so my case now is not only a Percy Schmeiser case now, it's a case for farmers and indigenous growers and people throughout the world," Schmeiser told Reuters on Wednesday.


Schmeiser and his lawyer are appealing the case on the grounds that the judge erred in law and fact on 17 separate issues.

Court documents filed by Schmeiser's legal team, for example, contend the Federal Court judge erred in determining Monsanto had not waived its patent rights by unleashing an "invention" they cannot control into the environment. They also say he erred in ruling Monsanto had taken adequate steps to control the spread of its technology.

The case has been portrayed by Schmeiser's defenders as a David versus Goliath saga, pitting a small Prairie farmer standing up for landowners' rights to own and control their own seed supplies.

Schmeiser said he has mortgaged half his land and used his family's retirement savings to pay for his legal fight. He also said that donations have been pouring in from around the world.

"(The case) has issues within it that bring out the discussion or help to provide an example to those debating the issue of genetically modified foods and the implications for farmers because these things are out there," said Terry Zakreski, Schmeiser's lawyer.

Monsanto has issued a cross appeal, disputing the value of the "profits" awarded on Schmeiser's 1998 canola crop, but the company says it believes Justice MacKay's ruling was correct.

Monsanto said that independent tests of Schmeiser's farm found that 1,030 acres were 95 percent to 98 percent tolerant to Roundup, raising doubts that the seed could have arrived by accident.

"Under Canadian law Mr. Schmeiser certainly has the right to appeal Justice MacKay's decision and we respect that right," Monsanto Canada spokeswoman Trish Jordan said in a release.

The case is scheduled to be heard by three judges from the Federal Court of Appeal in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The proceedings are expected to take two days.

Canola is the Canadian variant of rapeseed. About 80 percent of the country's farmers grow transgenic canola.

Adapted from: Reuter Company News by Kanina Holmes
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, May 15 2002
  Posted May 17th, by Roger Lovejoy