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Friday, May. 03, 2002 at 6:15 PM
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
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
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
Fight Against Monsanto Vaults
Farmer Into World Spotlight
By Krista Foss
The Globe And Mail
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
giant, the 71-year-old grain farmer from Bruno,
Sask., has taken
his story -- and his message about farmers' rights --
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
Thailand. This week he kicks off a tour that will
take him through
Europe. Then he's off to Seattle, followed by a spin
"It has been pretty hectic," he said recently.
Farmers groups, environmentalists and United Nations
all want to hear Mr. Schmeiser's tale of being taken
to court over
the kind of canola found growing in his fields four
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
Saskatchewan is mid-May, when a Saskatoon judge is to
appeal of the March, 2000, ruling that made him an
"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
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
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
him to maintain his packed travel itinerary and his
This year, he will rent out most of his land to
cultivate just 300 acres himself with the help of
In 1998, Monsanto informed him he was infringing on
for a herbicide-resistant strain of canola, called
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
invalid. Monsanto wanted to settle out of court, but
A federal cou rt judge ruled in March, 2000, that it
the patented canola ended up growing in Mr.
Schmeiser's fields by
accident and that he must have knowingly harvested
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,"
The case cost Mr. Schmeiser and his wife Louise
0,000 in legal
fees. To pay, they mortgaged their land and gutted
retirement savings. But the judge also awarded costs
which this fall asked for nearly -million.
"Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night and
ourselves, 'What did we get ourselves into? We could
everything we worked our whole lives for,' " Mr.
But rather than sit at home and fret, Mr. Schmeiser
himself into a global poster boy for the rights of
Through his web site (http://www.percyschmeiser.com),
his story as "the classic David vs Goliath struggle,"
raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for next
The site sports a photograph of him holding the
award, presented to him in Delhi in 2000 for his work
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
"The bottom line is that this case for us is about
intellectual property. There are 30,000 farmers who
technology in Canada and pay to use it."
Ms. Jordan said the company is not at all worried
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
pollen drift and contamination from their genetically
strains of canola have made it impossible for
to grow certifiably organic canola.
Mr. Schmeiser has also registered a lawsuit against
damages related to alleged contamination of his
fields by Roundup
Ready canola, a suit he hasn't yet had time to
"My wife said we won't live long enough to see the
end of it," he
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