Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,725,466 articles and books

Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto.

Ordinarily, when an industry pollutes the environment, the victims go to court and sue for damages. So, in 1998, when pollen from a field of Monsanto's genetically engineered genetically engineered adjective Recombinant, see there  (GE) canola seeds drifted over neighboring fields and infected a patch of canola being grown by Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser Percy Schmeiser (born January 5 1931) is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada. He specializes in breeding and growing canola. He became an international symbol and spokesperson for independent farmers' rights and the regulation of transgenic crops during his protracted legal , a lawsuit quickly followed.

But this lawsuit was different: It was the St. Louis-based multinational that sued the 70-year-old farmer. Monsanto claimed that Schmeiser had misappropriated mis·ap·pro·pri·ate  
tr.v. mis·ap·pro·pri·at·ed, mis·ap·pro·pri·at·ing, mis·ap·pro·pri·ates
a. To appropriate wrongly: misappropriating the theories of social science.
 the company's patented property -- i.e., its genetically engineered pollen.

Schmeiser was both indignant and dumbfounded dumb·found also dum·found  
tr.v. dumb·found·ed, dumb·found·ing, dumb·founds
To fill with astonishment and perplexity; confound. See Synonyms at surprise.
. "If I would go to St. Louis and contaminate con·tam·i·nate
1. To make impure or unclean by contact or mixture.

2. To expose to or permeate with radioactivity.

con·tam·i·nant n.
 their plots -- destroy what they have worked on for 40 years -- I think I would be put in jail," he said.

On March 29, 2001, Federal Judge W. Andrew MacKay ruled that Schmeiser's canola plants had violated Monsanto's patent rights. Schmeiser was ordered to pay Monsanto $10,000 for licensing fees and up to $75,000 in profits from the sales of his crop.

"This is very good news for us," Monsanto's Trish Jordan said of the court ruling. "Mr. Schmeiser had infringed on our patent."

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) was less enthusiastic. According to RAFI, the ruling means "farmers can be forced to pay royalties on GM seeds found on their land, even if they didn't buy the seeds or benefit from them."

Monsanto Uber Alles

In 2000, more than 109.2 million acres (44.2 million hectares) of GM crops were planted around the world. Monsanto (which was acquired by Pharmacia last year) was responsible for 94 percent of these "Frankenfields."

Monsanto originally claimed that releasing its genetically altered crops would pose no harm to the environment because the mutated pollen would never spread to neighboring crops. Now, as environmentalists warned, Monsanto's genetic genie has been let out of the bottle.

But instead of suffering from this cataclysmic cat·a·clysm  
1. A violent upheaval that causes great destruction or brings about a fundamental change.

2. A violent and sudden change in the earth's crust.

3. A devastating flood.
 ecological blunder, Monsanto stands to benefit. The court ruling not only gives Monsanto a "license to pollute," it also gives the company an incentive to pollute.

Instead of having to pay damages for polluting the environment, Monsanto now wins two ways: (1) it can extort To compel or coerce, as in a confession or information, by any means serving to overcome the other's power of resistance, thus making the confession or admission involuntary. To gain by wrongful methods; to obtain in an unlawful manner, as in to compel payments by means of threats of  money from any neighboring framer who refuses to buy its GM crops, and (2) it can use pollen pollution as a weapon to destroy all surrounding natural crop competitors.

The ruling promises nothing less than a profit-driven genetic apocalypse -- a Hitlerian future in which all seeds are "Uberseeds" created in the Monsanto's labs and sent out on a mission of genetic world domination.

The ruling would have given Exxon the right to sue the coastal residents of Alaska whose beaches illegally "misappropriated" the oil that spilled from the Exxon Valdez.

The potential ramifications ramifications nplAuswirkungen pl  are mind-boggling. If the Ashcroft-Bush administration were to succeed in outlawing abortion, for instance, a clever lawyer defending a serial rapist might use such twisted logic to argue that his client had the right to sue his victims for child support.

Anger In the Heartland

Farmers in North America planted three-fourths of the world's GM crops in 2000 but they are beginning to have second thoughts. A number of recent studies has shown that promised reductions in the cost of fertilizers and pesticides has not materialized and that lab-created crops have been less productive than traditional crops.

The National Farmers Union -- in Canada and the US -- has demanded a national moratorium on the production, import and distribution of GM foods. In North Dakota, wheat farmers have won introduction of a bill to block the release of Monsanto's genetically manipulated wheat. In March, the Indiana House of Representatives The Indiana House of Representatives is the lower house of the Indiana General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Indiana. The House is composed of 100 members representing 100 distinct districts. House members serve two-year terms without term limits.  passed a bill protecting a farmer's right to save seed.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Howard has publicly advised farmers not to sign Monsanto's Technology Agreement, warning that the protections and guarantees of the contract were "strictly one-sided."

Meanwhile, Percy Schmeiser has filed a countersuit coun·ter·sue  
tr.v. coun·ter·sued, coun·ter·su·ing, coun·ter·sues Law
To bring proceedings against (a plaintiff) in direct opposition to a suit brought against onself.
 against Monsanto. After three generations in farming, Schmeiser's family now faces bankruptcy. Standing up to a multinational like Monsanto is costly but farmers from around the world have rallied to Percy's side.

Since the trial ended in June 2000, Percy has been invited to speak at seed conferences in New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. , Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the US. Last October, Percy was honored with India's Mahatma mahatma (məhăt`mə, –hät`–) [Sanskrit,=great-souled], honorific title used in India among Hindus for a person of superior holiness. Mohandas Gandhi is the best-known figure to whom the title was applied.  Gandhi Award for "working for the betterment and good of [humankind] in a nonviolent way."

Schmeiser's nightmare isn't over. After Monsanto's pollen contaminated contaminated,
v 1. made radioactive by the addition of small quantities of radioactive material.
2. made contaminated by adding infective or radiographic materials.
3. an infective surface or object.
 the seeds that he had spent 40 years to develop, Schmeiser removed his entire canola crop and bought new non-GM seeds to replant re·plant
To reattach an organ, limb, or other body part surgically to the original site.

An organ, limb, or body part that has been replanted.
 his fields. To his shock, he discovered that a new crop of Monsanto's GM canola plants had re-germinated in his fields. When unwanted "volunteers" crop up in fields, the typical way the farmer deals with the problem is to apply herbicides. But these second-generation Monsanto seeds had been engineered in the lab to be "Round-up Ready" -- i.e., designed to survive applications of Round-up herbicides (also made by Monsanto).

Monsanto's argument was that the creation of "Round-up Ready" crops would make it possible to kill any competing weeds, allowing their seeds to thrive. In practice, Schmeiser realized, what it means is that Monsanto has created a chemical spray guaranteed to kill any crop it doesn't "own." This also means that Monsanto has made it nearly impossible to eradicate any of its patented crops once they have been released into the environment.

"I haven't got many years left, but I'm going to spend what time I have fighting this," Schmeiser told an interviewer for the Canadian Broadcast Commission.

What You Can Do Percy Schmeiser's family needs funds to survive and to fight the costly legal battle against Monsanto. Donations can be sent to: Schmeiser Defense Fund, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce TSX: CM NYSE: CM, better known to most customers as CIBC, is one of Canada's major banks. CIBC is classified as a Domestic Chartered Bank (Schedule I). , Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada, SOK 2AO. For more information:
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earth Island Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Monsanto sues nearby farmer for patent infringement when its genetically altered canola pollinated his plants
Author:Smith, Gar
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CSAS
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Previous Article:The Bakun Dam Is Back.
Next Article:Stop the Nuclear Brushfires.

Related Articles
The Implications of the Percy Schmeiser Decision.
Seeds of discontent. (Interview).
Genetic contamination and farmers' rights. (Thinking Economically).
Seeds of doubt: Monsanto in court.
Farming's new feudalism: Percy Schmeiser and other casualties of industrial agriculture's drive to own it all.
War, globalization and the demise of Monsanto.
Firm sues farmers over patented seeds.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters