ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

25 May 2002


May 24, 2002, CropChoice guest opinion
By Percy Schmeiser

One point about my struggle against Monsanto, which has accused me of infringing the patent on its genetically modified Roundup Ready canola, that really bothers me is its claim that something like 98 percent of my 1998 canola crop tested positive for the presence of the  Roundup gene.

Monsanto is being deceitful in this regard. I do not believe that this sample with such a high reading came from my farm. But before I explain further, I should tell you that the Robinson Investigation firm, which Monsanto hired to take canola samples from farmers, is itself under investigation. During my trial, Monsanto made no apologies for the actions of the Robinson firm, which acted on "tips" and "rumors" that farmers were growing Roundup Ready canola without a license.

At times investigators from Robinson would wear Monsanto or Roundup Ready clothing when they called on farmers. Their first words to farmers were: "We‚re ex-RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] officers." It was intimidation!

And now, back to the issue of my seed.

Before sowing my 1998 crop, I took some of my seed to Humboldt Flour Mills for inoculation against diseases and insects. Later, I learned that the milling company had kept one sample, which it returned upon my request.

In 1999 Monsanto formally accused me of illegally planting its transgenic seed the year before. It based this accusation on what its agents claimed was Roundup-resistant canola that they found growing in the ditch next to my fields.

Feeling uneasy about the pending lawsuit, I took samples from all of my fields, plus what the flour mill had returned to me, to the University of Manitoba to be tested for the presence of Monsanto’s patented genes. I had to send the samples there at my expense because Agriculture Canada, a government agency, refused to test my seed. Yet, it did testing for Monsanto at taxpayer expense.

The U. of Manitoba test results revealed no detectable level of modified genes in several of the samples; in two other samples they detected 2 percent and 8 percent. The samples taken from the field and the ditch where I first noticed the Roundup Ready canola volunteers growing had a 60 percent level of genetic contamination. Notably, those areas abut land on which my neighbor planted Roundup Ready canola in 1996. Seed and or pollen from those canola plants, could quite easily have been transported to my field.

Months before the June 2000 trial began I received some shocking news. Monsanto announced that an employee of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, which a year before had purchased Humboldt Flour Mills, found and turned over a sample of my seed from 1998. (Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was and is licensed to sell Monsanto’s genetically modified canola seed.)

I phoned the employee, Morris Hofmann, to ask how he knew it was my seed. Hoffman replied: "You don’t know."

At trial, Hofmann, a good friend to the local Monsanto representative, testified that he had found the sample. My lawyer, Terry Zakreski, pointed out that it would be difficult to know, after the passage of two years, the origin of the seed. To wit, I had not cleaned my saved (bin run) seed, full of chaff, that I delivered to Humboldt Flour Mills in 1998 for inoculation.

The one-pound sample that the mill later returned to me was in the same condition. Contrast that with what Monsanto claimed Hofmann had discovered: 20 pounds of clean seed in Saskatchewan Wheat Pool bags.

I ran into Hofmann after the trial. He apologized to me for lying about supplying Monsanto with a sample of clean Roundup Ready canola seed for use in court. He told me that Monsanto had taken him on trips, to lunch and given him free products to use on his farm.

But he wasn't the only witness whom Monsanto wined and dined. Hofmann told me that Monsanto had a reception room where liquor and other refreshments were served to witnesses while the trial was happening.
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