The Classic David vs Goliath Struggle.....
By Sean Pratt
The Western Producer
October 26, 2005
He is as persistent as the Roundup Ready canola that keeps appearing in his fields. Percy Schmeiser is back in the news, threatening to file a lawsuit against his nemesis, Monsanto Canada.
The Bruno, Sask., farmer, who lost a high-profile legal battle against the biotech company that made it to the Supreme Court of Canada, is butting heads with Monsanto again over Roundup Ready plants on his land. Schmeiser, who is prohibited by the courts from growing Monsanto's genetically modified canola, contacted the firm in late September about volunteer plants that he said had invaded his 50-acre, chemical-fallow field.
"It's almost identical to how my field was contaminated in 1998," said the farmer, who travels the world speaking about his fight with Monsanto.
According to the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, 95 to 98 percent of the 1,000 acres of canola Schmeiser grew in 1998 comprised Roundup Ready plants he knowingly cultivated. Schmeiser, who has never admitted to planting brown bag seed despite being found guilty by three different courts of violating Monsanto's patent, claimed this latest incident parallels what happened seven years ago.
"If I would have seeded canola I could have had another lawsuit on my hands," he said.
On Sept. 21 he called Monsanto and requested that the company remove the unwanted plants. Monsanto responded to Schmeiser's call by sending a team of investigators to his farm where they confirmed Roundup Ready canola was growing in his field. Despite reservations about the claim, the company offered to hand pick the offending plants from the field once Schmeiser signed a legal release that all farmers with unexpected volunteer plants are asked to sign.
The document forever releases Monsanto from any lawsuits associated with their products and forbids the grower from disclosing the terms of the settlement. For Schmeiser, that was too much.
"I flatly refused to sign any release that would take my freedom of speech or my rights away."
He doesn't trust the biotech firm that engaged him in a legal battle that lasted six years.
"They must think I'm absolutely crazy I would ever sign my rights away," he said.
So on Oct. 21 Schmeiser began removing the plants himself, some of which were shattering, spreading seeds onto his field. He filled a half-ton truck with his first clearing attempt. In a letter to the company, he estimated that damage to his farmland this year and the next is expected to exceed $50,000. He said he will send an invoice to Monsanto for the cleanup costs.
Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said the company has done all it is going to do by offering assistance, which it was under no legal obligation to do in the first place.
"In this situation it would appear that Mr. Schmeiser is not really interested in assistance. He's interested in continuing his media campaign," said Jordan.
She said Schmeiser was treated no differently than any other producer requesting removal of unexpected Roundup Ready volunteers, despite "puzzling questions" about this particular situation.
The company's inspectors said the amount and uniformity of the plants across the 50 acres was not consistent with pollen flow and that it was highly unusual to have canola flowering in late September.
In a letter to the company
dated Sept. 30, Schmeiser countered that the plants were not uniform,
although there were more plants along the side of the field bordering a grid
road, indicating the GM seed could have blown off trucks or from other
farmer's fields. And he said volunteer canola will emerge any time of the
year when soil and climate conditions are right.
|Percy Schmeiser responds to
the above story
I am continually amazed, but not surprised at Monsanto’s attempts to completely misrepresent the facts. The Supreme Court did not rule that my 1030 acres of canola grown in 1998 was 95-98% Roundup tolerant. This was based on Monsanto’s own “in-house” testing. What Monsanto is saying though is they contaminated over 1030 acres of my canola fields to some degree.
There was only one set of truly independent tests that was conducted on my canola; that of Dr. Rene van Acker (PHD) of the University of Manitoba. Dr. van Acker’s tests showed contamination of Roundup Ready canola in my fields at levels form 0-8%, and the ditch along one field at 60% contamination.
As was stated during trial, and not ruled out by any judge, this higher level of contamination indicates the canola must have come off a passing truck.
Monsanto’s lawyers and Trish Jordan have continuously stated that all a farmer has to do if his fields are contaminated with their GMO canola is to notify them and they will come out immediately and remove the canola plants. They never mention publicly that that they also demand a release to be signed, in which the farmer gives up all of their rights.
After signing that release, the farmer, for the rest of his life cannot take Monsanto to court for whatever reason, and agrees to a “gag-order” that he never speak about this to anyone.
When the volunteer canola showed up in September, I immediately contacted Monsanto. Two Monsanto investigators came to my farm and together we assessed the contamination and damage it had caused to my field. Canola had not been grown on that field since 1999. Monsanto agreed to remove the canola plants by hand.
Nowhere did Monsanto’s investigators comment on “the amount or uniformity of the plants, or that it was flowering over 50 acres and that this was not consistent with pollen flow.” This statement was made by Monsanto’s lawyer who had never visited the field in question. It is unfortunate that Monsanto’s counsel would deliberately make a false statement and try to misrepresent the facts.
Monsanto had agreed to remove their canola that was contaminating my fields and have failed to do so. In my opinion they have no respect for the property rights of farmers.
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