By Hwaa Irfan
As pharmaceutical and agricultural multinationals are set to take control of our health leaving our well-being out of the picture, it is always goods new to hear of an occurance that proves that the world and the real wealth and our health does not belong to them. Canadian Percy Schmeiser has proven that the world does not belong to the1% and these giants do not have a right over our lives.
I wrote about Schmeiser’s situation at the time, to find the issue resurfacing as encouragment for all those who find themselves in the same situation, the only problem is, in the meantime, nature is being abused and the consumer is being denied the right of choice.
This story began as far back as 1996 for Schmeiser who had for nearly 60 years developed his own seeds as is the natural course of things for farmers before patenting nature became the huge profit margin for agro-pharmaceutical multinationals like Monsanto. The risk of cross contamination from GMO crops to ungenetically modified crops has been an issue for many farmers around the world, a risk that reduces the likelihood of consumers not getting access to uncontaminated foods. This was the case for Schmeiser, as his field of canola grown from seeds of his previous harvest were contaminated by Monsanto GMO crops being planted elsewhere. The immediate result threatened the livelihood of a conscientious farmer who has been providing food as God intended for the well-being of consumers.
Monsanto felt that it had a right to confiscate Schmeiser’s land, due to the rights bestowed by man by patenting the God-given gift of nature. Monsanto felt at liberty to sue Schmeiser for contaminating 320 hectares of his fields with Roundup Ready canola, a GMO crop ‘designed’ to tolerate what humans cannot consume, a lethal dose of glyphosate. If successful, this legal suit would cost Schmeiser U.S.$20,000. The day that Monsanto felt it had rights over the rights of Schmeiser, was the day that Monsanto made a great mistake, becuase Schmeiser wanted to know how the GMO got there – Schmeiser decided to fight back!
Schmeiser was preparing for retirement when Monsanto went on a propaganda campaign in 1997, threatening Schmeiser with legal proceedings that got media attention. Schmeiser’s credibility was being whittled away, along with a stream of accusations and being stalked by Monsanto representatives and investigators. This affected Schmeiser’s wife, Louise. Out of the blue, a 55 year old farmer found his whole world threatened having spent most of his years developing a seed that could withstand local conditions. The plug was being pulled as what they had honestly worked for, their retirement fund was being sucked into legal fees to the sum of U.S.$400,000+! But rightly so, the Schmeisers felt they had done nothing wrong.
Schmeiser with 5 children and 15 grandchildren had served as mayor from 1966-1983 in Bruno, and as a member of the Legislative Assembly for the constituency of Watrous from 1967-1971. This background may have given him the courage to claim his rights as Monsanto claimed that Schmeiser had bought their Roundup Ready seeds locally.
Mediation talks failed on August 10 1999, and on August 11, Schmeiser filed a U.S$10mn lawsuit. Before the Federal Court of Canada Schmeiser accused Monsanto of:
- Obtaining his seeds from a local seed plant
- Total disregard for the environment by introducing GMO crops without proper controls and containment
- Contamination of his crops
- Unwanted GMO plants
However, Shmeisers lawsuit would not be heard before the first lawsuit which was Monsantos. From June 5 – 20, 2000 Monsantos suit was heard in Schmeiser’s hometown of Saskatchewan. Monsanto had engineered and presented evidence from 24 witnesses who claimed that Schmeiser’s fields contained 90% of Roundup Ready crops, but no independent tests were made.
Schmeiser presented evidence that his fields contained 0 – 68% Roundup Ready crops which were confirmed by independent testing y research scientists of the the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Monsanto lawyer Roger Hughes’ defence was:
“Whether Mr. Schmeiser knew of the matter or not matters not at all”
Monsanto sought damages to the tune of:
- U.S$400,000 in damages
Up to that point Schmeiser had spent:
- U.S$160,000 in legal fees from his savings
- U.S$40,000 in travel, and compensation for labor taken on while away from the farm because of the case.
Schmeiser got donations from other farmers towards legal fees, but Justice Andrew McKay upheld Monsanto’s claim!
Incensed by the court ruling that rejected the possibility of cross contamination, Schmeiser made an appeal in 2002. The appeal was rejected. Schmeiser then asked for leave from the Canadian Supreme Court . The leave was not granted until 2003, and was heard in early 2004. In 2004, Monsanto’s claim was found to be valid, but equally Schmeiser did not have to pay Monsanto becuase he profited nothing.
Monsanto began business as a pharmaceutical company that saw agriculture as a means of selling its chemicals. Monsanto is the inventor of toxic poisons such as DDT, PCB and Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. Patenting of nature or T.R.I.P.S allows for Monsanto to control the seed market making it imposibel for farmers to produce their own seeds. Three quarters of harvested GMO crops belong to Monsanto. Up to 90% of all U.S. soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beet, and canola contains a Monsanto patent – big money! The price of seeds have gone up dramatically, pushing up the price of foods, and they demand a lot of water to grow!
Ten years of legal wranglings brings us up to 2008, the year the global economic crisis got under way, and also the year that GMO crops made the biggest trade and profit. Finally, Monsanto settled out of court agreeing to pay cleanup costs in 2008, to not place a gag-order on the settlement, and Monsanto was made liable ad suable if recontamination should occur again.
The Beginning of the End!
When man makes advances into the creation of life without full comprehensive knowledge what makes that life form unfold, live and is nurtured to its full potential, man is taking a treacherous road down the path of the unknown. Schmeiser has set a much needed precidence.
Riceland, the largest U.S. rice cooperative is but one of 3,000 lawsuits filed against the Bayer Corporation for its unapproved ‘Liberty Link’ GMO rice. In May 2006, samples were collected by Riceland from several suppliers much of which tested positive with the unapproved GMO ‘Liberty Link’ rice of which there is more than one variety. That June, Riceland sent samples to Bayer which confirmed the results, and was oblidged to, and did report the findings to USDA,which is when USDA began its investigation, from which a public announcement was made in August 2006.
Riceland has been in operation since 1921 with headquarters in Arkansas, to become a global leader in rice milling and marketing. Riceland claimed that Bayer Corp Science cost them U.S.$380mn in losses and projected losses since 2006 as the trial began in February 2011 as ironically United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had detected Bayer’s ‘Liberty Link’ rice varieties LL64, LL601 and LL604 in U.S. supply. As a result, the EU closed its market to U.S. rice! What a fait-a-complie for the world’s largest producer of GMO crops!
By March 2011, the Public Patent Foundation filedsuit for 270,000 plaintiffs including organic producers. These suits lead to the invalidation of Monsanto GMO patents! The suits also take on:
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready as harmful to the human placenta, and causes lymphoma, miscarriages in animals
- For prohibiting independent research on GMO seeds
- For using its lobbying power to prevent labeling of GMO products
- The false claim that GMO seeds improve yeild and reduces the need for pesticides
- That all GMO seeds fail to past the test of patenting law
- Monsanto is double-patenting to offset the fact that the first patents have expired (1990)
The upshot of Riceland’s lawsuit is that Bayer lost U.S.$137mn with the suit noting that:
“The worldwide total economic loss due to the] contamination event was estimated at U.S$741mn –U.S.$1.285bn.”
Riceland was awarded U.S.$11.8mn in compensation, and U.S.$125mn in punitive damages.
Apparently Monsanto now admits to contaminating natural crops, well it did not have much of a choice in the matter, but one of the problems that now face countries taht take GMO seeds is a change Monsanto has made in its Technology Stewardship Agreement which essentially tranfers the blame to the farmer. Then there is USDA, which early 2011 had approved trade in Ventria Bioscience’s rice which is GMO with human genes!
Ananda, R. “Lawsuit Seeks to Invalidate Monsanto’s GMO Patents.” http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24103
“Case Style: Riceland Foods, Inc. v. Bayer CropScience.” http://www.law.uh.edu/faculty/thester/courses/Emerging%20Tech%202011/Riceland%20Foods,%20Inc.%20v%20Bayer.pdf
“Monsanto vs. Schmeiser.” http://www.percyschmeiser.com/
Mercola. “Finally… Solo Farmer Fights Monsanto and Wins.” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/25/percy-schmeiser-farmer-who-beat-monsanto.aspx?e_cid=20111225_SNL_Art_1