Farmers fight for their rights
05 / 2002
Farmers in Canada were able to gain profits from their labour by growing soybeans until when Monsanto stepped in. Monsanto is a chemical and seed company that deals on genetically modified organisms (GMO) on rape seeds and soybeans. The idea is that with such modified seeds, the yield is high less chemicals are used. Monsanto is so powerful that it compells the farmers to buy its seeds and to sign a contract to pay a technology charge of about 40 Canadian dollars each year for each hectare of land. The reality is that the farmers growing soybeans are threatened by Monsanto that a farmer has no right to grow soya except he/she is a registered member. If there is cross pollination by wind or animal of Monsanto’s seeds, the entreprise claims all the yield from the non-member farmer. Hence, non-member farmers are on a fight in court against Monsanto in Canada for monopoly. This first court experience started in 1998, when Mr Percy Schmeiser, a non-member had his farm pollinated by wind. The yield was very high and Monsanto laid a lawsuit against the farmer. In court, Monsanto accused him of growing seeds without a licence. In defence, Mr Schmeiser argued that he has been growing rape seeds for the past 50 years and fortunately or unfortunately, his farm was cross-pollinated by wind from his neighbour’s farm who is a member of Monsanto. The court ruling was that it does not matter how the seeds got there, either due to the action of wind, water or animal, but that all the plants belong to Monsanto because they contain GMO. The farmer therefore lost the law suit and the implications were very serious to him and farmers all over the world. He lost all of his profit of the year, giving it to Monsanto. He could no longer grow rape seed again. He paid $153, 000 (canadian dollars) for the court cost of Monsanto (Monsanto asked for a million dollars). Private lawyer bill amounted $200, 000 (canadian dollars). Hence, what he had saved for 50 years was spent on the lawsuit and now compelled him to grow crops which are not of his choice. Fearing this violation of farmers’ rights and with further lawsuits against non-members by Monsanto, farmers in Canada decided that Mr Schmeiser launched an appeal on the case. Th hearing in the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada is set on the 15th and 16th of May 2002, and if the decision does not rule in favour of farmers, then the case will still go ahead to the Supreme Court of Canada. The protagonist in favour of farmers’ rights are the Organic Farmers’ Organisation, Church groups in Canada, National Farmers Union and consumer groups. They want to protect their farmers’ rights, advert further lawsuits by Monsanto after seeing the harsh implications from the first experience, and control the monopoly of Monsanto.
The court should rule in favour of farmers because their rights are violated. Consumers all over the world should rally behind farmers because individual farmers hardly gain enough profits as co-operations. All rural farmers should continue with meetings like the World Peasants Meeting so that progress and development for humanity are realised all over the world.
This file was written during the World Peasant Meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon, from the 6th to the 11th of May 2002.
Contact : SCHMEISER, Percy, P.O. Box 400, Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada. Tel: 306 369 2520 - Fax: 306 369 2304 - firstname.lastname@example.org - Website: www.percyschmeiser.com
Interview with SCHMEISER, Percy