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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Little Guy strikes tiny blow on Monsanto

Monsanto pays Percy Schmeiser

Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser spent 1998 to 2004 standing up to one of the most influential agricultural companies in the world: Monsanto. While it was Monsanto that took Schmesier to court on that occasion, the roles were reversed on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, when Monsanto found itself being taken to court by Schmeiser.

It was the first case between Monsanto and Schmeiser that led to the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled in favour of Monsanto. While the decision assured that regardless of contamination, a farmer cannot grow patented seeds, Schmeiser recognized that if the company is indeed the owner of the plant, then it should be liable for the damages that their property causes others.

There is no legal precedent in Canada that has determined who maintains the liability for damages caused by patented plants. Monsanto does however accept moral responsiblity for what are known as "volunteers" -- unwanted plants appearing on farmers' fields.

The company employs a program that offers to remove volunteer plants.

In October 2005, Schmeiser's farm was visited yet again by Monsanto, and again, in the form of its RoundUp Ready Canola. Schmeiser took advantage of the company's removal program, but discovered that it would only remove the plants if he signed a release form that contained a confidentiality clause, which he disapproved of. What followed led to an out-of-court settlement on March 19, 2008, and Monsanto paid Schmeiser the $660 it cost him to have the plants removed.

LBy Jon Steinman
Published: March 21, 2008

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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