(Mercola) Monsanto has long been trying to establish control over the seeds of the plants that produce food for the world. They have already patented a number of genetically altered food crops, which can only be grown with proper license, and the seeds for which must be purchased anew each year.
But genetically engineered crops cannot be contained.
And rather than being found guilty of contaminating farmers' property, Monsanto has successfully sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement.
Many farmers have subsequently, quite literally, lost their farms.
Percy Schmeiser of Saskatchewan, Canada, was also a victim of Monsanto's vile ways.
Schmeiser worked on farming and developing his own seeds for 50 years, and when his fields were contaminated, Monsanto threatened him, intimidated him, and tried to take his land away.
But Schmeiser refused to give in, and eventually beat them in court.
David versus Goliath
Percy's story is a classic case of David versus Goliath, and his victory is no doubt momentous.
It all began in 1998, at which time Schmeiser had grown canola on his farm for 40 years. Like any other traditional farmer, he used his own seeds, saved from the previous harvest. But, like hundreds of other North American farmers, Schmeiser ended up being sued by Monsanto for 'patent infringement.'
More than 320 hectares were found to be contaminated with Roundup Ready canola—the biotech giant's patented canola, genetically engineered to tolerate otherwise lethal doses of glyphosate. The company sought damages totaling $400,000.
Most farmers end up settling, but Schmeiser was angry enough to fight back. In a 1999 interview, Schmeiser stated:
"I never put those plants on my land. The question is, where do Monsanto's rights end and mine begin?"
The case eventually went before the Federal Court of Canada. Schmeiser in turn accused Monsanto of:
• Libel, by publicly accusing him of committing illegal acts
• Improperly obtaining samples of his seed from a local seed plant
• Callous disregard for the environment by introducing genetically modified crops without proper controls and containment
• Contamination of his crops with unwanted GM plants
After 10 Years, Monsanto Agrees to Pay for Cleanup
After a decade-long battle, Schmeiser won when, in March 2008, Monsanto settled out of court, agreeing to pay for all cleanup costs. The agreement also specified that Schmeiser would not be under gag-order, and that Monsanto can be sued for recontamination.
This was a much-needed win not just for Schmeiser, but for farmers everywhere. It set the precedence that farmers may be entitled to reimbursement when their fields are contaminated with unwanted GM crops (as indeed they should!). On Schmeiser's website, www.percyschmeiser.com, he states:
"If I would go to St. Louis and contaminate their plots--destroy what they have worked on for 40 years--I think I would be put in jail and the key thrown away."
However, that's not to say that farmers have nothing to fear anymore… The Federal Court of Canada did uphold the validity of Monsanto's patent, dismissing Schmeiser's challenge to the patent based on the fact that Monsanto cannot control its spread. Worse yet, while the judge agreed that a farmer can generally claim ownership of crops growing in his fields when they're inadvertently carried there by pollen or wind, this does not hold true when it comes to patented, genetically modified seed. Schmeiser was deeply upset about this particular part of the ruling, as the implications are huge.
Still, in this case, while Monsanto's patent was still deemed valid and enforceable, Schmeiser was not forced to pay for the 'privilege' of having his fields contaminated…
This landmark case is now featured in the documentary film "David versus Monsanto."
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