According to the Canadian biologist Robert Wager, the biotechnology industry must continue to communicate accurate information to the public if it wants to lead in the agricultural biotech field.

At least that's what Wager claimed in an opinion piece in the StarPhoenix newspaper about Percy Schmeiser, the farmer sued by Monsanto (Convicted Farmer Makes Unlikely Hero for Rural Lifestyle, April 15, 2005).

In reality, as Percy Schmeiser indicates here in his response, Wager's article is stuffed full of misleading industry-spin. Even the headline is inaccurate and grossly misleading - Schmeiser was never "convicted" of anything.

Schmeiser's detailed response to Wager's claims provides a very useful guide to the misinformation frequently spread about the Schmeiser case by pro-GM lobbyists.

Viewpoint author's use of facts selective
April 21, 2005
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon, Canada) [via Agnet]

Percy Schmeiser, a Bruno area farmer who was sued by Monsanto, writes in this opinion piece that Robert Wager's viewpoint, Convicted farmer makes unlikely hero for rural lifestyle (SP, April 15), requires comment.

Schmeiser says he is continually amazed, but not surprised, at efforts of bio-tech industry supporters to completely misrepresent the facts of his case to further their own agenda.

Wager publishes numerous articles and weblogs where he chooses some facts and ignores others, trying to present himself as a credible voice on bio-tech issues. His StarPhoenix viewpoint [article] is evidence of this.

In it, Wager conveniently overlooks the most important factor in Schmeiser's case. This action started with a statement of claim from Monsanto against Schmeiser for $15 an acre for infringing, or using, its patented Roundup Ready canola without a licence.

What the Supreme Court ruled, and what Wager's viewpoint doesn't state, is that Schmeiser didn't have to pay Monsanto anything -- technology use fees, damages, penalties or legal costs. This was one of three areas of my appeal to the Supreme Court and on this issue, all nine justices ruled in Schmeiser’s favour. Yes, the high court ruled 5-4 against Schmeiser on patent validity and infringement, but Schmeiser was successful on the main issue.

Wager’s comments that farmers "rarely save seeds anymore" and that "one might ask why a farmer would purposely spray a herbicide that should destroy three acres of his crop" show Wager has little or no understanding of Western Canadian farming practices.

Schmeiser says that farmers continue to save and exchange seeds with neighbours for many reasons, including adaptation to local soil conditions, resistance and tolerance to diseases, and to develop varieties best suited to area growing conditions.

Furthermore, spraying early season weeds in a "spring burn" manner is common practice. Wager also neglects to mention the seed Schmeiser used the following year was mixed in with canola from my other fields. He is trying to leave the impression that canola which survived the spring burn was the sole source of my seed for the following year.

Schmeiser also notes with interest and disappointment that Wager chose to share the in-house test results from Monsanto (he states 95 per cent to 98 per cent of the crop was Roundup tolerant) as opposed to the independent tests conducted by Rene van Acker of the University of Manitoba.

Van Acker's tests showed Roundup Ready canola in Schmeiser's fields at levels below eight per cent, and the ditch along one field at around 60 per cent.

Nowhere does Wager mention that Schmeiser did not in-crop spray my fields with Roundup. Wager also has no evidence to support his allegation of where Schmeiser received financial assistance in defending himself against Monsanto's charges.

Schmeiser says he spent his own resources to fight Monsanto's allegations. He did receive donations from the public, but the vast majority of these came in small amounts from farmers in Western Canada, who were concerned about an aggressive and belligerent company infringing on farmer's rights and protections.

Schmeiser also has issues with the headline, saying he was not convicted of anything. Conviction implies a criminal action, and this was nothing more than a civil dispute. He says he is owed an apology by The StarPhoenix.

Wager complains that "the tremendous amount of misinformation spread by groups with an agenda makes it tough to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to genetically engineered crops and food." This statement is ironic, as his selected choice of evidence and its context, while neglecting the main issue, makes him guilty of his own criticism