Monday, 13 October 2008
The Percy Schmeiser story...
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer of a 1,400 acre farm from Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada whose Canola fields became contaminated with Monsanto's Round-Up Ready Canola. Monsanto's position was that it didn't matter whether Schmeiser knew or not that his canola field was contaminated with the Roundup Ready gene, or whether or not he took advantage of the technology (he didn't); that he must pay Monsanto their Technology Fee of $15./an acre for each acre.
In 2001 lawyers warned a farming family in Indiana that the only way they could avoid being sued by the biotech company Monsanto was to sow their entire farm with the company's seeds. IN 1999 the Roushes planted just over a quarter of their fields with the company's herbicide-resistant soya. Though they recorded precisely what they planted where, and though an independent crop scientist has confirmed their account, Monsanto refused to accept that the Roushes did not deploy its crops more widely demanding punitive damages for the use of seeds they swear they never sowed. The Roushes said that they were, in effect, being sued for not buying the company's products. So the next year, like hundreds of other frightened farmers, they planted their fields only with Monsanto's GM seeds. The lesson is that once you've started using GM, you're stuck with it.
But unlike scores of similarly accused North American farmers who have reached out-of-court settlements with the bullying Monsanto, Schmeiser, who saves his seeds from previous harvests, fought back and Monsanto took him to court in the year 2000, outlining their request for patent infringement seeking damages totalling $400,000. This included a list of civil damages, including about $250,000 in legal fees, $105,000 in profits they feel Schmeiser made on the 1998 crop, $13,500 ($15 an acre) for technology fees and $25,000 in punitive damages. Schmeiser feels that Monsanto had asked for exorbitant amounts to serve as a warning to other producers. At that time Schmeiser said he has already spent $160,000 of his own savings for legal fees and another $40,000 of his own time, travel and compensation for labour he had to hire when he was away from the farm.
After a backwards and forwards battle across court hearings, and in an out of court settlement finalized on March 19, 2008, the now 77 year old Percy Schmeiser has settled his lawsuit with Monsanto. Monsanto has agreed to pay all the clean-up costs of the Roundup Ready canola that contaminated Schmeiser's fields. Also part of the agreement was that there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred. Schmeiser believes this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted GMO plants.
In the words of Paul Goettlich: "The fact remains that Monsanto should be liable for contaminating Percy's fields and those of the rest of the world. Why not? They certainly meant to do so. The cost for this crime should be born directly by the business and board officers, as well as each and every share holder who should be made to pay to the full extent of their wealth. For without these stock owners Monsanto would probably not have had the required capital to produce the mess on Earth that we now witness before us".
See here for Percy Schmeiser's award and details.
Posted by Fr. Peter Doodes at 09:00