Monsanto sues Canadian farmer over GE crops

by GRAIN | 25 Nov 1998
TITLE: Monsanto Sues Canadian Farmer Over GE Crops AUTHOR: Ed White and Rodney Desnomie PUBLICATION: Saskatoon News (?) DATE: 23 November 1998 SOURCE: Originally posted in IGC member conference by rabbit(at) URL: l

NOTE: This is only one of several reports on Monsanto's recent spate of legal crackdowns against farmers allegedly infringing Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seeds. For those who have not followed this development, we reproduce below a Monsanto press release of 29 September 1998.


Originally posted in IGC member conference: Date: November 23, 1998 Posted by: rabbit(at) l


By Ed White and Rodney Desnomie Saskatoon newsroom

Percy Schmeiser says he's innocent and wants his name cleared.

And if he ends up facing Monsanto in court, he's going to be putting the company's genetically altered crops on trial.

"It's in the ditches and the roadsides; it's in the shelterbelts; it's in the gardens; it's all over," said Schmeiser.

Monsanto is suing the Bruno, Sask., farmer for allegedly growing Roundup Ready canola without a licence.

The company claims Schmeiser bought the seed from one or more local growers and planted it in 1997. He then grew a crop, keeping some of it for seed for the 1998 crop year, Monsanto claims.

No court date has been set.

Monsanto has patented the genetic modification that makes canola plants resistant to glyphosate. Seed companies under contract to Monsanto produce the seed, which is sold through farm supply businesses. To grow the seed, farmers must sign a contract with Monsanto agreeing to sell all their crop, with none retained to seed future crops.

Schmeiser said he did not plant any of Monsanto's seed, and if glyphosate-tolerant canola plants grew in his fields this summer, it occurred through pollination from other fields or from seed scattered by machinery and from trucks traveling the roads that run beside his land.

Possible explanation

Schmeiser said his land is surrounded by other canola growers, and pollen could have drifted into his fields on the wind. His land also lies beside busy truck routes that lead to grain elevators.

Schmeiser spoke to reporters at his lawyer's office in downtown Saskatoon, saying he wants to clear his name of Monsanto's charges.

"It's very upsetting to me to all of a sudden see your name in the paper -- that you maybe stole the seed," said Schmeiser.

He said he first noticed glyphosate-tolerant canola plants in his fields 18 months ago, when he sprayed chemical to control weeds around the power poles in his fields. Some canola plants were unharmed by the spray.

Pea crop planned

This past spring Schmeiser said he used a glyphosate pre-seeding burnoff on a field that had grown canola the year before and on which he planned to grow peas.

But so many volunteer canola plants survived that he decided he couldn't afford to grow the peas there, and planted canola instead.

"We're just touching the tip of the iceberg in polluted fields, contamination of fields by this Roundup genetic canola," said Schmeiser.

"It just opens up a vast area of uncertainty."

His first inkling of trouble came in a phone call from a Humboldt Monsanto representative. The man told him the company had received a tip that Schmeiser was growing seed covered by Monsanto's patent on the altered genes, and that the company wanted to take samples of his crop.

Schmeiser refused to allow the company to take samples, but with a court order Monsanto collected some of Schmeiser's crop.

Monsanto's statement of claim asks for an injunction preventing Schmeiser from using or selling any seed that breaks its patent protection. It wants his canola crop seized, and asks for general, punitive and exemplary damages, as well as legal costs.

Schmeiser's statement of defence said he never received any patent-protected canola seed and never deliberately planted any.

It also challenges the validity of the Monsanto patent, arguing it is improper to patent a life form and is an attempt to entrap farmers with "nuisance patent infringement claims."

Schmeiser said he is upset by the lawsuit, but will not change his farming practices because of it.

"I plan to do exactly what I was doing this year, next year."

Copyright ©1998 Institute for Global Communications.

----------------------------------------------------------- ---

Release Immediately Karen K. Marshall, (314-694-2882) karen.k.marshall(at) Jennifer O'Brien (1-800-666-1765) obrienj(at)


ST. LOUIS (September 29) - In response to numerous requests from farmers wanting to know details regarding those offenders caught illegally saving and replanting seed containing patented technology, Monsanto Company today announced the specifics of one of its seed piracy case settlements.

Following a recent seed piracy investigation, David Chaney of Reed, Ky., admitted to illegally saving and replanting Roundup Ready® soybeans. Chaney also acknowledged that in return for other goods, he illegally traded the pirated seed with neighbors and an area seed cleaner for the purpose of replanting. All of those involved were implicated when Monsanto made the discovery.

Chaney's settlement agreement terms include a $35,000 royalty payment as well as full documentation confirming the disposal of his unlawful soybean crop. Chaney, as well as the others involved, will make available all of their soybean production records, including Farm Service Agency/ASCS records, for Monsanto's inspection over the next five years. All of those involved also will provide full access to all of their property, both owned and leased, for inspections, collection and testing of soybean plants and seed for the next five years.

Farmers in other states who unlawfully saved and replanted Monsanto's patented seed also have discovered the company's stringent policy on seed piracy. Other examples of monetary royalty terms include:

* A McCracken County, Ky., grower will pay $25,000 for illegally pirating seed.

* A Ringgold County, Iowa, farmer paid a $16,000 royalty for his unlawful actions.

* A father and son from Edwards County, Ill., settled with the company for $15,000.

* An Ill. farmer from Christian County, will pay $10,000 for his illegal actions.

Although royalty terms vary by case, all of these growers will undergo onsite farm and record inspections for at least five years. Other actions taken in 1998 include crop destruction and confiscation of seed. In each of these cases, the royalty payment far exceeded any cost savings the farmer could have gained from saving and replanting pirated seed.

Backed by U.S. patent law, Monsanto is vigorously pursuing growers who pirate any brand or variety of its genetically enhanced seed, such as Roundup Ready soybeans and cotton and Bollgard® cotton. The company has hired full-time investigators to follow up on all seed piracy leads it receives. To date, Monsanto has more than 475 seed piracy cases nationwide, generated from over 1,800 leads. Currently, more than 250 of these cases are under investigation in states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Scott Baucum, Monsanto's intellectual property protection manager, says the vast majority of growers are honest businesspeople who do not pirate patented biotech seed. "We are committed to maintaining a level playing field for all growers," he says. Baucum also emphasizes the fact that seed piracy is illegal even if a farmer did not sign an order/invoice statement for the seed at the time of purchase. "For example, in David Chaney's case neither of these items was signed, but Chaney's actions were unlawful nonetheless."

Baucum says that when farmers illegally pirate patented biotech seed, everyone loses. "Monsanto invests many years and millions of dollars in biotechnology research to bring growers new technologies sooner rather than later," he says. "When growers save and replant patented seed, there is less incentive for companies to invest in future technologies that will ultimately benefit farmers." These technologies include seed that produce higher-yielding crops, drought-tolerant crops, crops that are protected against corn rootworm damage, cyst-nematode protected soybeans and crops with improved high value components, such as modified oil or bran.

Growers can talk with their ag chem retailer, seed dealer or Monsanto local market manager for additional information regarding seed piracy. Or they can call Monsanto directly by phoning 1-800-523-2333 in the South or 1-800-ROUNDUP in all other areas.

Roundup Ready® and Bollgard® are registered trademarks of Monsanto Company.

Author: GRAIN
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