Canadian farmer forces GM giant back to court (22/1/2008)

1.Canadian farmer forces GM giant back to court


1.Canadian farmer forces GM giant back to court
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian, January 22 2008

Monsanto accused of pollution over stray plants Campaigner believes case could trigger global claims

He was portrayed as an environmental David who stood up to the corporate Goliath, and became a figurehead of the battle against the introduction of genetically modified crops everywhere. When Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for growing the firm's GM crops, which he claimed blew on to his land, the company's eventual victory in the Canadian supreme court was overshadowed by accusations of aggressive tactics and corporate bullying.

Now, Schmeiser, of Bruno, Saskatchewan, is back to launch another slingshot at Monsanto, and this time he is suing the billion dollar business for GBP300 in his local small claims court. At stake, he says, is millions of pounds of compensation for those who have seen their land contaminated with GM material, and the rights of organic farmers and others to produce GM-free crops. Monsanto calls the case 'specific and local'.

Schmeiser and his wife, Louise, are suing for the C$600 (GBP300) it cost to hire contractors to dig up several of Monsanto's GM oilseed rape plants he found growing in a field he was preparing for a mustard crop in 2005. Schmeiser argues the stray plants are pollution, and the polluter should pay. The company refused unless he agreed not to talk about it.

Schmeiser said: 'No corporation should have the right to introduce GM seeds or plants into the environment and not be responsible for it. It doesn't matter if it was $600, or $600,000. It has now become a very important case, even though it is small, because if we win then it could cost Monsanto millions and millions of dollars across the world.'

He says the rogue GM seeds were probably spilled from a road beside the field. GM crops such as herbicide-resistant oilseed rape are grown in huge quantities across the US and Canada.

'It was almost unbelievable that Monsanto didn't pay, because it came out and admitted it was their GMO [genetically modified organism] on our property,' he said. 'But they said they would refuse to pay unless we signed a non-disclosure statement. No way would we ever give that away to a corporation.'

The case was due to be heard in Saskatchewan tomorrow, but Monsanto said it will be delayed at Schmeiser's request. Schmeiser said he had not requested a delay.

He said: 'If Monsanto had come and removed the plants, it would have been over. We didn't want another case, but we have to stand up to them again. As long as we have the strength to continue, we will fight for the rights of farmers.'

A spokesperson for Monsanto said: 'Mr Schmeiser approached Monsanto about this in 2005. Monsanto has a general policy in Canada to assist in such matters if and when they arise with growers. However, Mr Schmeiser refused our offer to assist and decided to pursue this small claim through the courts.'


2.GM radio: Deconstructing Dinner (Canada)
Saskatchewan organic farmers vs. Monsanto/Bayer

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If you were told that organic farmers are giving up growing organic crops, would you be concerned? Organic standards prohibit the presence of genetically engineered organisms within a harvest, but since outcrossing between plants is unavoidable in nature, genetically engineered canola is so easily crossing with non-GE varieties being grown organically, that these crops are unable to be certified as organic.

Monsanto has long been at the forefront of controversy around genetically engineered plants and, most notably, when their hired hands began trespassing onto farmers' properties, taking samples, and then accusing farmers of stealing their technologies. One farmer who has now become world-renowned for his defiance of such actions is Percy Schmeiser, whose field of non-genetically engineered canola became the unwilling host to Monsanto's patented GE variety known as Roundup-Ready Canola. It was this case that eventually set the precedent that a company can indeed own life forms (the plants) that inadvertently make their way onto a farmer's field. But if a company maintains ownership of the seed and hence the plant, then should that company maintain responsibility for the damages that their property causes?

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has since 2002 been seeking compensation for the damages caused by the property owned by American-based Monsanto and Germany's Bayer. A class action lawsuit was chosen, as the issues raised by the two plaintiffs are no different than those faced by any organic farmer operating in Canada. In May 2005, the lower court in Saskatchewan denied the group such class action status, and subsequent appeals were also denied in May 2007 and then again in December 2007 by the Supreme Court of Canada. This exhausted all legal avenues for such a case. But while the denial of acquiring such status is a blow to the farmers, it's far from being the end to their fight.


Sean Gardner -- Monsanto Canada Inc. (Winnipeg, MB) -- Monsanto's Canadian operations are part of the larger, global Monsanto company headquartered in St. Louis, MO. The company produces canola, corn and soybean seed products, and a range of herbicides most often found under the brand name Roundup-Ready Canola. Sean has been with the Canadian operation since 2005 and in his current position since August 2006. He previously worked as Monsanto's country lead for the Mediterranean area, comprised of Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sean joined Monsanto in 1998 when the company acquired PBI Cambridge. Prior to joining Monsanto, Sean worked at Unilever.

Arnold Taylor -- Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) (Kenaston, SK) -- Since 1991, SOD has acted as an umbrella organization for organic producers, certifiers and processors. The organization maintains a membership of 600-700. Arnold operates Taylor Organic Farms with his son. The 3,000 acre farm has been certified organic since 1992. Arnold is the president of the Canadian Organic Growers and the chair of the Organic Federation of Canada. He is also the chair of SOD's Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee.

Marc Loiselle -- Saskatchewan Organic Directorate's OAPF (Vonda, SK) -- Marc farms on a century-old family farm. The Loiselle Organic Family Farm grows cereal, oilseed, pulse, clover and hay crops. They raise chickens, goats and cattle. Marc has worked with certified organic and biodynamic practices for 22 years. Marc is one of a few farmers in Canada growing Red Fife Wheat.


Denise Dewar -- CropLife Canada (Toronto, ON) -- CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations -- pest control products and plant biotechnology -- for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings. Denise is now in the same position for CropLife International.

Mischa Popoff -- isitorganic.ca (Osoyoos, BC) -- Mischa was an organic inspector until 2003. Popoff was a nominee in the 2007 federal Conservative Party candidacy for the BC Southern Interior riding.

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