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.

7 comments:

Monsanto said...

Starting from when we began our efforts to settle the matter out-of-court, Schmeiser claimed the biotech plants in his fields got there by accident and were not planted by him. It’s a claim he continues to make to this day. He’s become something of a folk hero in some circles, playing the role of David to Monsanto’s Goliath. He’s often quoted in the press and is a frequent speaker around the world at events hosted by groups opposed to agricultural biotechnology.

The truth is Percy Schmeiser is not a hero. He’s simply a patent infringer who knows how to tell a good story. Unlike his neighbors, and the vast majority of farmers who plant patented seeds, Schmeiser saved seed that contained Monsanto’s patented technology without a license. As indicated by the trial court in Canada, the seed was not blown in on the wind nor carried in by birds, and it didn’t spontaneously appear. Schmeiser knowingly planted this seed in his field without permission or license. By doing so, he used Monsanto’s patented technology without permission. In fact, the courts determined this in three separate decisions.

Consider just a few of the facts.

In the first trial, Schmeiser claimed in 1997 he sprayed Roundup on three acres of his canola field because he was suspicious it might be Roundup tolerant. If his story were true, this would kill any canola plants other than those tolerant to Roundup. After killing more than half his crop, he then harvested the remaining plants that did not die and segregated this seed. The next year (1998) he had this seed treated and used this seed to plant 1,030 acres on his farm.

Why would he harvest seed that he says he didn’t want on his farm and deliberately plant it the following year?

As expressed in the Canadian Supreme Court judgment documents:

Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.


Schmeiser didn’t have a few Roundup Ready plants in his field. His fields had mostly Roundup Ready plants in them–far more than could have ever grown there by accident. Again, in the words of the Canadian court judgment:

…tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. …The trial judge found that “none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality” ultimately present in Schmeiser’s crop.

Consider Schmeiser’s legal history with this situation:

Schmeiser was first found to have violated Monsanto’s patent in 2001 when the federal court found he “knew or ought to have known” he had saved and planted Roundup Ready seed and infringed Monsanto’s Roundup Ready patented technology. You can read the original Canadian court decision at http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html.

He lost again upon appeal in 2002, when the three-member Canadian Federal Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed all 17 grounds of appeal submitted for Mr. Schmeiser. Read the entire decision at http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html.

He lost again, in 2004, in an appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court--exhausting all his legal options. See the court judgment document at http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html.

During his frequent lecture tours, Schmeiser continues to say he didn’t plant Roundup Ready seeds. He’s even stated he won the case in the Canadian Supreme Court. What he doesn’t say is that three separate court decisions, including the Supreme Court decision, say exactly the opposite.

http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=59&item=164

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Hi Monsanto... but do you have any answers to my observations on the left?

Also I have been informed that in India there was an introduced GM high-yield swamp paddy rice. this indeed produced the high yield but I am informed that this produced a new toxin that killed off the second form of growers income... fish. may I ask of your observations re this?

I have also been informed that in Mexico the main maize basic seed bank has been contaminated by windborn GM pollen. A farmer has assured me that pollen can be blow for 450 miles, can you deny both these claims please?

Blessings,

adriennecampbell said...

How fascinating that Monsanto replied to the GM blog within two hours. It really makes me wonder how it found out about this posting - and why it feels the need to defend itself, Goliath-like against little Davids.

Anyway, when was it ever morally OK to patent life forms for corporate profit, especially seeds for food, on which humans have been dependent since the beginning of human life? Even the assumption of such a right outrages me and should outrage us all.

Although I'm not a church goer I both celebrate the existence and mourn the passing of out beautiful garden of Eden here on earth.

I long for a time when the greed and rapaciousness and downright destructiveness of Monsanto and the likes is exposed for what it is, and that they experience a reality meltdown similar to that of the banks. I long for a return to sanity where humans reconnect to our food and all other beings in a respectful and sustainable way.

It is said we have 99 months before we reach the tipping point of no return - the time is now to fight with all our heart and all our soul to bring sanity to our world. THanks Fr Peter for doing your bit.

Barbara Echlin said...

What Monsanto and their like seem unable to realise is that to select and save seed from crops one has grown is a tradition going back to the very beginnings of agriculture.Whether the plants in Schmeiser's field got there by accident, or were saved from plants in his fields and bulked up and re-sown, is immaterial. It's outrageous anyone should suggest he is not entitled to save and re-sow seed from his own land.

Kati said...

*snort* How funny that a monsanto rep. actually commented on your blog entry, Peter. Too bad for them that their answers suck, as usual.

To Monsanto, You folks do NOT have the right by GOD to dictate what and how the rest of the world grows their food. Food is something (along with the ability to eat it) that is a GOD-given right. Some folks need to gather it, some folks grow it. And the growing it doesn't require any by your leave from a corporation. Be aware that a great many folks in America and Overseas are educated to how willing your company is to screw over the small folks in order to make a buck. We talk about it, we blog about it, we inform new folks, we pass on fliers. And there is no way that you can stop us from speaking TRUTH about the ills your company passes on this world.

Percy Schmeiser has my prayers for his fight against your company.

Kati said...

*snort* How funny that a monsanto rep. actually commented on your blog entry, Peter. Too bad for them that their answers suck, as usual.

To Monsanto, You folks do NOT have the right by GOD to dictate what and how the rest of the world grows their food. Food is something (along with the ability to eat it) that is a GOD-given right. Some folks need to gather it, some folks grow it. And the growing it doesn't require any by your leave from a corporation. Be aware that a great many folks in America and Overseas are educated to how willing your company is to screw over the small folks in order to make a buck. We talk about it, we blog about it, we inform new folks, we pass on fliers. And there is no way that you can stop us from speaking TRUTH about the ills your company passes on this world.

Percy Schmeiser has my prayers for his fight against your company.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

You're very quiet Monsanto... has the fact that you are patenting life itself actually, at last, in the last few years, been able to be made public?

You are, of course, a very powerful and well connected company, after all Donald Rumsfeld was president of Searle Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Monsanto, secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, was on the board of directors of Calgene Pharmaceuticals, an affiliate of Monsanto, Linda J. Fisher, a former Monsanto official, was nominated by Bush to be second-in-command at the EPA. She was Monsanto’s representative in Washington from 1995 to 2000 and coordinated the company’s resistance strategy to Genetically Modified food, then we have Stansfield Turner, former Director of the CIA and member of the Monsanto Board and Earle H. Harbison former president of Monsanto and CIA officer for 19 years. Add to that the fact that your (Monsanto's) lawyer was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Bush, Sr and you can't get better connected than that or can you?

Look at it this way regarding the Schmeiser case... YOU LOST!

If you are allowed to have control over seeds then you have control over the means of living on earth. Far more powerful than any military force.

I hope and pray you will continue losing and add my prayers to Katie's for Percy Schmeiser.