COMMENTARY

Cody vs. Schmeiser
Has the organic community been tarnished by our poor choice for a poster boy? New Farm reader and ecologist rules against both Monsanto and Schmeiser and suggests we choose those we rally behind carefully.

 

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NF

June 14, 2004: I am a big fan of The New Farm website and read it weekly. I recently read your latest article on the May 21, 2004 Canadian Supreme Court ruling on the Monsanto v. Schmeiser case. I have kept up on this case for quite a while and feel that Monsanto and other GMO-promoting companies are acting unethically and unwisely in pushing their unproven technology.

However, I followed the link on your page to the entire ruling of the Canadian Supreme Court on this case and learned a few things that neither The New Farm nor any other anti-GMO organizations had ever mentioned. Apparently, Mr. Schmeiser either did intend to profit from the unintentional genetic contamination of his canola, or he wanted to test the strength or correctness of Monsanto's patent of genes and genetic techniques.

This according to court documents: Mr. Schmeiser harvested canola that could have been contaminated by drifting pollen from neighboring Roundup-Ready canola fields in 1995. In 1996, he planted that seed in his fields and used Roundup on 3 acres of it to isolate the canola plants containing the patented gene and harvested and stored that contaminated seed separately from the rest of his field. He had that contaminated seed treated for planting and planted 1030 acres with that seed, despite Monsanto’s prior warning that seed taken from the public road right-of-way by his farm had tested positive for the patented gene.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Schmeiser knowingly used Monsanto's patent protected gene. It did not dispute that pollen drift might have contaminated his crop. However, it viewed his actions after he knew it was contaminated as a violation of the patent. The court maintains that if the Patent Act needs to be modified, it is up to Parliament to do so. Looking back, it is apparent that Mr. Schmeiser took on Monsanto in the wrong way. I believe the scientific evidence is there to support the case against Monsanto's unsafe technology if the appealing farmer is above reproach in his ethics and practices.

The best defense is a good offense. Organic farmers need to take the best precautionary measures that Monsanto, the scientific community, and agro-industry advise for protection against contamination of their crops by GMO, then sue the bio-tech companies for trespass, violation of health and food safety regulations, Clean Air Act violations, and actual damages and loss of profit incurred by the farmers because of GMO contamination. I am disappointed that The New Farm and other organic and anti-GMO organizations failed to report the whole story, and I fear that the “poster child" for the anti-GMO movement has tarnished our image a little by painting us as uninformed zealots rallying around our not-so-pure or honest victim of agribusiness.

Hopefully, we can learn from these mistakes and as we move forward.

Sincerely,
Cody Wheeler
Organic gardener, ecologist, and someday organic farmer

 

THANKS, CODY. We appreciate the work you did on this. We were lapping up the message and weren’t inclined to check out the messenger in greater detail. Your case for a good offense that’s above reproach is a convincing one.

--Ed.