Contamination and law (30/12/2003)

1.Readers give Monsanto an earful over patents
2.Ballot Winner Backs GM Contamination and Liability Bill
Readers give Monsanto an earful
December 28, 2003
Vancouver Courier [via Agnet Dec. 29/03]

Croft Woodruff of Vancouver writes in this letter to the editor that once again, a Monsanto spin doctor demonstrates a passing acquaintance with the facts in the Schmeiser/Monsanto seed patent case ("Farmer not so innocent, says Monsanto," Letters, Dec. 21).

Woodruff says that during Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser's trial, it was admitted in federal court that Mr. Schmeiser had neither purchased, borrowed, stolen or otherwise illegally obtained Monsanto's genetically modified herbicide-tolerant Round Up Ready canola seed.

During the trial, it was well established that the greatest concentration of Monsanto's GM Round Up ready canola was in the gutters along the roads that ring Schmeiser's farm.

A very small amount of GM Round Up ready canola was found in Schmeiser's fields. The former could only have come from Monsanto's GM canola seed carelessly spilled from trucks delivering seed to other canola farmers in the area, while the field contamination would have to be from seed and pollen wind drift.

As far as the federal court was concerned, all of this was irrelevant to the fact there was some of Monsanto's GM canola in and around Mr. Schmeiser's fields.

What would the spin doctors have to say if a special kind of patented manure was accidentally dumped on their front porches, contaminating house and property, and the patent law allowed the owner of this fertilizer act as the injured party to sue and win in court big time, while at the same putting their homes and fortunes at risk of forfeit?

This is essentially what happened to Percy Schmeiser at the hands of Monsanto and its misuse of Canadian patent law. What sort of justice is there when a man's land is trespassed upon and contaminated but as the injured party, he has to pay the price? Monsanto cannot prevent GM seed contamination of other non-GM crops.

The problem in the Schmeiser/Monsanto case is that the federal court justices who heard the appeal were too timid to strike down a flawed patent law passed by a parliament that failed to take into account such unintended and avoidable consequences suffered by Percy Schmeiser and other Canadian farmers.
David Askew of the Vancouver Chapter of the Council of Canadians writes that if Monsanto has evidence that Percy Schmeiser illegally obtained and planted canola seeds containing its genetically engineered gene, if they have evidence that he did other than what he says he did, which was to save and plant seeds from his own fields, why didn't Monsanto sue him for this? Instead Monsanto sued Mr Schmeiser for patent infringement.

Despite Trish Jordan's (of Monsanto) insinuations to the contrary, the courts did not rule on where the seed came from. The finding of the court was that it didn't matter where the seed came from. The ruling of the courts was that Mr Schmeiser knew or ought to have known that there were genetically engineered canola plants in his fields. He was therefore infringing on Monsanto's patent and should not have saved his own seed and replanted it the next year. This despite the fact that this had been his practice in over 50 years of farming.

In a case that has implications for farmers and indeed anyone in the world concerned about the unconfined release of man-made genes into the food supply and the environment, Mr. Schmeiser has been given leave to appeal the lower courts' decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case will be argued in Ottawa on Jan. 20, 2004.
2.Ballot Winner Backs GM Contamination and Liability Bill
By James Lyons, Political Correspondent, PA News

Strict new laws on growing genetically modified (GM) crops were being proposed today by Tory MP Gregory Barker.

Mr Barker was among backbench MPs who won the right to have their chosen topic debated in the Commons in the annual ballot.  Today he announced he will propose green group Friends of the Earth's GM Contamination and Liability Bill.

The Bexhill and Battle MP was drawn 17th in the ballot and so has little prospect of seeing the Bill become law.

But he and green campaigners hope raising the issue in Parliament will put more pressure on ministers.

Mr Barker will propose minimum separation distances between GM and conventional crops and set out liability where contamination occurs.  "Whether you're pro or anti GM, everyone must agree that GM plantings cannot continue without protecting the rights of farmers to grow organic or conventional crops," he said.

"I look forward to ensuring the preservation of consumer choice, by introducing a Bill that will provide strict legislation on any GM plantings in this country."

Martyn Williams, of Friends of the Earth, said: "We are thrilled Gregory has decided to introduce the GM Contamination and Liability Bill.

"European law means member states must determine their own contamination and liability laws. However the Government has not announced any plans to fulfil this important responsibility - indeed they have never instigated a parliamentary debate on GM.

"The GM Contamination and Liability Bill will ensure that GM crops - including trials - will never be planted in the UK again without proper regulations."
"The Nuffield report suggests that there is a moral imperative for investment into GM crop research in developing countries. But the moral imperative is in fact the opposite. The policy of drawing of funds away from low-cost sustainable agriculture research, towards hi-tech, exclusive, expensive and unsafe technology is itself ethically questionable.  There is a strong moral argument that the funding of GM technology in agriculture is harming the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the developing world." - Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Environmental Protection Authority, Ethiopia

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