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Percy Schmeiser

Genetic Contamination and Its Effects on Family Farms

Date Recorded: Jan 14th, 2005
Recorded At: Blue Hill Town Hall, Blue Hill, Maine
Recorded By: WERU Community Radio, East Orland, Maine
Duration: 59:00  

Topic Background

In March 2001, Percy Schmeiser was found guilty of having plants of Monsanto-patented, Genetically Engineered (GE), Roundup Ready canola on his land. He was found not guilty of obtaining the seed fraudulently, and insists that he never purchased seed from Monsanto or used Roundup herbicide on his crops. The judge specified that whether Monsanto’s proprietary genetics came in via wind, water, birds, or fell off farmers’ trucks did not matter: Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto’s patent. The judge also ruled that when any fields are contaminated with GE seed, the crop would become the property of the patent owner — in this case Monsanto. Rather than being compensated for the loss of his special variety of canola, Schmeiser’s crop was confiscated.

In May of 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Schmeiser’s appeal case that although Monsanto’s patent is valid, Schmeiser would not be forced to pay Monsanto’s fines or legal fees, since he did not profit from the contamination. Nevertheless, the impact of the Canadian Court decision, and current rules governing the intellectual property rights related to GE seed, place all farmers at risk. Around the world, farmers are being visited by Monsanto’s private investigators. They come to the door, advise the farmers that they’re suspected of illegally planting its GE seeds, and offer a letter stipulating what the farmers must pay to avoid being formally prosecuted and potentially losing thier entire farm. If the farmers choose to pay the fee, they are also obliged to sign a letter saying that they will remain silent about the incident or face further prosecution.

Schmeiser was one of the few farmers with the ability to fight this attempt at extortion, even if the fight had the potential to cost him everything.

Speaker Biography

Percy Schmeiser is a long time conventional canola farmer and farm equipment dealer from the small rural community of Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada. Schmeiser has shared his story with farmers across Canada, in the United States, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Africa. He has become an expert on legal issues that are cropping up as a result of genetically modified organisms(GMO’s) being introduced into our food supply.

Schmeiser served as Mayor of Bruno from 1966 to 1983, and as member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly from 1967 to 1971. In October, 2000, he received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for working for the good of humanity in a non-violent way.

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