1.Roundup back in Schmeiser field
2.Misleading claims about Schmeiser


There's a snide aspect to the reporting here about Schmeiser that's maybe not so surprising given the story's farm press source. It's perhaps worth quoting what the University of Guelph agronomist E. Ann Clark has said about the Schmeiser case.

"To all the farmers and farm organizations that applauded the prosecution of Schmeiser two years ago, and have since sat back and watched him swinging in the wind waiting for judgment:

a. he was not found guilty of brown bagging or improperly buying or stealing Monsanto seed - indeed, those highly publicized allegations were dropped at the actual hearing stage due to a complete lack of evidence,

b. he was found guilty of having Monsanto genetics on his land,

c. it's doubtful whether there's a farm anywhere in western Canada that does not have Monsanto Roundup Ready canola seed in its soil,

d. if you have it, you are to call Monsanto and they are to come out and deal with it. How, pray tell, are they going to do this - by plucking out the offending plants one by one - for up to 10 years after each contamination event occurred (canola seed can remain dormant under western Canadian conditions including no-till) - during which time you are disallowed from growing canola because if you do, and volunteer Monsanto canola emerges, sets seed, and shatters, it all starts over again?"

1.Roundup back in Schmeiser field
Sean Pratt
Western Producer, October 28, 2005
via Crop Biotechnology News

He is as persistent as the Roundup Ready canola that keeps appearing in his fields.

Percy Schmeiser is back in the news, threatening to file a lawsuit against his nemesis, Monsanto Canada.

The Bruno, Sask., farmer, who lost a high-profile legal battle against the biotech company that made it to the Supreme Court of Canada, is butting heads with Monsanto again over Roundup Ready plants on his land.

Schmeiser, who is prohibited by the courts from growing Monsanto's genetically modified canola, contacted the firm in late September about volunteer plants that he said had invaded his 50-acre, chemical-fallow field.

"It's almost identical to how my field was contaminated in 1998," said the farmer, who travels the world speaking about his fight with Monsanto.

According to the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, 95 to 98 percent of the 1,000 acres of canola Schmeiser grew in 1998 comprised Roundup Ready plants he knowingly cultivated.

Schmeiser, who has never admitted to planting brown bag seed despite being found guilty by three different courts of violating Monsanto's patent, claimed this latest incident parallels what happened seven years ago.

"If I would have seeded canola I could have had another lawsuit on my hands," he said.

On Sept. 21 he called Monsanto and requested that the company remove the unwanted plants.

Monsanto responded to Schmeiser's call by sending a team of investigators to his farm where they confirmed Roundup Ready canola was growing in his field.

Despite reservations about the claim, the company offered to hand pick the offending plants from the field once Schmeiser signed a legal release that all farmers with unexpected volunteer plants are asked to sign.

The document forever releases Monsanto from any lawsuits associated with their products and forbids the grower from disclosing the terms of the settlement.

For Schmeiser, that was too much.

"I flatly refused to sign any release that would take my freedom of speech or my rights away."

He doesn't trust the biotech firm that engaged him in a legal battle that lasted six years.

"They must think I'm absolutely crazy I would ever sign my rights away," he said.

So on Oct. 21 Schmeiser began removing the plants himself, some of which were shattering, spreading seeds onto his field. He filled a half-ton truck with his first clearing attempt.

In a letter to the company, he estimated that damage to his farmland this year and the next is expected to exceed $50,000. He said he will send an invoice to Monsanto for the cleanup costs.

Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said the company has done all it is going to do by offering assistance, which it was under no legal obligation to do in the first place.

"In this situation it would appear that Mr. Schmeiser is not really interested in assistance. He's interested in continuing his media campaign," said Jordan.

She said Schmeiser was treated no differently than any other producer requesting removal of unexpected Roundup Ready volunteers, despite "puzzling questions" about this particular situation.

The company's inspectors said the amount and uniformity of the plants across the 50 acres was not consistent with pollen flow and that it was highly unusual to have canola flowering in late September.

In a letter to the company dated Sept. 30, Schmeiser countered that the plants were not uniform, although there were more plants along the side of the field bordering a grid road, indicating the GM seed could have blown off trucks or from other farmer's fields. And he said volunteer canola will emerge any time of the year when soil and climate conditions are right.

2.Misleading claims about Schmeiser

(The following letter was published it in a slighly amended in 'Down to Earth': )

We were concerned to read in your correspondence column ('Patent Problem', Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 9, September 14, 2004*), a series of misleading claims by S Shantharam about gene flow from GM crops and the case of the Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser.

Shantharam claims that GM contamination was not an issue in the Schmeiser case because, "Court records clearly establish that Schmeiser had planted gm canola which he had purchased illegally." In fact, the trial court records establish the exact opposite. Aaron Mitchell, the lead investigator for Monsanto in the case, told the trial court under oath that, "We have no proof that anyone sold seed to Mr Schmeiser." (June 8, 2000, p.87)

When the case later came to the Supreme Court, no reference was made to any illegal purchase of GM seed by Percy Schmeiser. Of course, the reason Shantharam is so anxious to explain away the GM seed found on Percy Schmeiser's farm as the result of a deliberate purchase is because the most likely alternative is gene contamination from fields operated by Monsanto licensees, something Shantharam dismisses as "a concoction of the anti-gm lobby". In fact, gene drift is the only probable explanation for the GM seed found originally on Schmeiser's farm. No evidence has been produced to support any credible alternative.

It is also important to note that Schmeiser did not lose his case, as Shantharam claims, because he "was unable to prove to the court that his large tract of gm canola owed itself to pollen drift from neighbouring gm canola fields". He lost because the court decided that he knowingly replanted the genetically modified seed. Replanting knowingly, the court ruled, constituted an infringement of Monsanto's patent.

Significantly, however, the Supreme Court also said that farmers suffering GM contamination without making knowing use of the resultant seed would NOT be guilty of infringing Monsanto's patent. They also ruled that only genes, and not the modified plants themselves, are patentable. Both of these points are substantial losses for Monsanto and the industry.

As a former employee of gene giant Syngenta, Shantharam's overlooking of these important points in the Court's decision is perhaps understandable. But his letter to you is, nonetheless, significantly incorrect.

Professor Philip Bereano
University of Washington

Jonathan Matthews
GM Watch