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Canadian's Fight Against Monsanto

by brasscheck Friday, May. 03, 2002 at 6:15 PM

see below

April 9, 2002

Monsanto: This land is our land

You're a farmer and some of Monsanto's

nightmare genetically engineered seed

blows into your fields from a neighbors

plot sowing plants that interfere with

your crops and diminish the value of

your land.

What do you think would happen next?

a) Nothing. Those are the breaks.

b) Monsanto apologizes and fixes the problem it created

c) Monsanto sues you for patent infringement, ruining

you financially.

If you picked "c" you're living in the real world,

the Brave New Real World that is.

If we don't help this guy, we deserve what we're

going to get unless these corporate gangsters

are stopped.

Brasscheck

Details:

Fight Against Monsanto Vaults

Farmer Into World Spotlight

By Krista Foss

The Globe And Mail

4-9-2

Monsanto did not know what it was getting into when

it tried to

teach Percy Schmeiser a lesson.

Two years after losing a patent dispute with the

biotechnology

giant, the 71-year-old grain farmer from Bruno,

Sask., has taken

his story -- and his message about farmers' rights --

from Brazil

to Bangladesh, from Australia to Austria.

He has at least as many international gigs as boy

band 'N Sync

this year, yet the jet lag is not slowing him down.

In the fall, he visited South Africa. In March, he

was in

Thailand. This week he kicks off a tour that will

take him through

Europe. Then he's off to Seattle, followed by a spin

through South

America.

"It has been pretty hectic," he said recently.

Farmers groups, environmentalists and United Nations

policymakers

all want to hear Mr. Schmeiser's tale of being taken

to court over

the kind of canola found growing in his fields four

years ago.

Some will pay his air fare and expenses to have him

tell it in

person (he doesn't charge speaking fees.)

And the next time this grandfather of 14 will be back

home in

Saskatchewan is mid-May, when a Saskatoon judge is to

hear his

appeal of the March, 2000, ruling that made him an

international

folk hero.

"Monsanto couldn't have picked a worse person to get

into a fight

with," said Pat Mooney, the executive director of the

Winnipeg-based technology watchdog group ETC, who has

seen Mr.

Schmeiser speak at international forums.

"He's articulate and emotional, and he always creates

a stir when

he tells his story."

Born and raised in Bruno, a farming community 90

kilometres

northeast of Saskatoon, Mr. Schmeiser has grown

canola, wheat and

legumes on 1,400 acres of land for the last 47 years.

In the last two years, it has become increasingly

difficult for

him to maintain his packed travel itinerary and his

grain farm.

This year, he will rent out most of his land to

neighbours and

cultivate just 300 acres himself with the help of

family.

In 1998, Monsanto informed him he was infringing on

their patent

for a herbicide-resistant strain of canola, called

Roundup Ready,

because they had found it growing in his fields. He

had not paid

the necessary fees to cultivate it.

Mr. Schmeiser argued that the seed had blown into his

field or had

been dumped there by accident, and that made

Monsanto's patent

invalid. Monsanto wanted to settle out of court, but

Mr. Schmeiser

refused.

A federal cou rt judge ruled in March, 2000, that it

was unlikely

the patented canola ended up growing in Mr.

Schmeiser's fields by

accident and that he must have knowingly harvested

the patented

strain without informing Monsanto. "What the judgment

said was it

doesn't matter how Monsanto seeds get into your

fields; it's their

property. All the farmers' rights go out the window,"

Mr.

Schmeiser said.

The case cost Mr. Schmeiser and his wife Louise

0,000 in legal

fees. To pay, they mortgaged their land and gutted

their

retirement savings. But the judge also awarded costs

to Monsanto,

which this fall asked for nearly -million.

"Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night and

ask

ourselves, 'What did we get ourselves into? We could

lose

everything we worked our whole lives for,' " Mr.

Schmeiser said.

But rather than sit at home and fret, Mr. Schmeiser

has turned

himself into a global poster boy for the rights of

small farmers.

Through his web site (http://www.percyschmeiser.com),

which touts

his story as "the classic David vs Goliath struggle,"

he has

raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for next

month's

appeal.

The site sports a photograph of him holding the

Mahatma Gandhi

award, presented to him in Delhi in 2000 for his work

promoting

non-violent improvement of humanity.

Meanwhile, Monsanto Canada is resigned to losing the

public-relations battle, as long as it wins in court.

"We knew going into this that this was a no-win

situation for us

in the public's eye. It has all the classic things

that people can

take a spin on," said Trish Jordan, Monsanto Canada

spokeswoman.

"The bottom line is that this case for us is about

protecting

intellectual property. There are 30,000 farmers who

use this

technology in Canada and pay to use it."

Ms. Jordan said the company is not at all worried

about Mr.

Schmeiser's appeal and she noted he has not paid "one

cent" of the

costs owed to Monsanto.

But high-profile lawsuits against Monsanto are not

likely to end

with Mr. Schmeiser's appeal.

Earlier this year, the Saskatchewan Organic

Directorate launched a

class-action suit against Monsanto and Aventis

claiming that

pollen drift and contamination from their genetically

modified

strains of canola have made it impossible for

Saskatchewan farmers

to grow certifiably organic canola.

Mr. Schmeiser has also registered a lawsuit against

Monsanto for

damages related to alleged contamination of his

fields by Roundup

Ready canola, a suit he hasn't yet had time to

pursue.

"My wife said we won't live long enough to see the

end of it," he

said.

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