Percy Schmeiser is back in court. The Saskatchewan canola farmer who made Monsanto infamous for their predatory lawsuits is back in court again. This time he is on the offensive. Schmeiser wants $600 from the pesticide and genetic engineering company for the genetic pollution they have caused to his fields. Six hundred dollars may not sound like much, but given how widespread GE contamination has become, Schmeiser's success in this case could spell trouble for Monsanto.
David Adam, environment correspondent The Guardian, Tuesday January 22 2008
Canadian farmer forces GM giant back to court
· Monsanto accused of pollution over stray plants
· Campaigner believes case could trigger global claims
He was portrayed as an environmental David who stood up to the corporate Goliath, and became a figurehead of the battle against the introduction of genetically modified crops everywhere. When Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for growing the firm's GM crops, which he claimed blew on to his land, the company's eventual victory in the Canadian supreme court was overshadowed by accusations of aggressive tactics and corporate bullying.
Now, Schmeiser, of Bruno, Saskatchewan, is back to launch another slingshot at Monsanto, and this time he is suing the billion dollar business for £300 in his local small claims court. At stake, he says, is millions of pounds of compensation for those who have seen their land contaminated with GM material, and the rights of organic farmers and others to produce GM-free crops. Monsanto calls the case "specific and local".
Schmeiser and his wife, Louise, are suing for the C$600 (£300) it cost to hire contractors to dig up several of Monsanto's GM oilseed rape plants he found growing in a field he was preparing for a mustard crop in 2005. Schmeiser argues the stray plants are pollution, and the polluter should pay. The company refused unless he agreed not to talk about it.
Schmeiser said: "No corporation should have the right to introduce GM seeds or plants into the environment and not be responsible for it. It doesn't matter if it was $600, or $600,000. It has now become a very important case, even though it is small, because if we win then it could cost Monsanto millions and millions of dollars across the world."
He says the rogue GM seeds were probably spilled from a road beside the field. GM crops such as herbicide-resistant oilseed rape are grown in huge quantities across the US and Canada.
"It was almost unbelievable that Monsanto didn't pay, because it came out and admitted it was their GMO [genetically modified organism] on our property," he said. "But they said they would refuse to pay unless we signed a non-disclosure statement. No way would we ever give that away to a corporation."
The case was due to be heard in Saskatchewan tomorrow, but Monsanto said it will be delayed at Schmeiser's request. Schmeiser said he had not requested a delay.
He said: "If Monsanto had come and removed the plants, it would have been over. We didn't want another case, but we have to stand up to them again. As long as we have the strength to continue, we will fight for the rights of farmers."
A spokesperson for Monsanto said: "Mr Schmeiser approached Monsanto about this in 2005. Monsanto has a general policy in Canada to assist in such matters if and when they arise with growers. However, Mr Schmeiser refused our offer to assist and decided to pursue this small claim through the courts."