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"Farmers are now using from six to 10 times more chemicals because what has happened is that we've developed a new super-weed from genetic engineering. There are about five companies, maybe there are more, but about four or five that sell GMO canola. So if you had 'farmer A' growing a GMO canola from a company over here and 'farmer B' was growing a canola from another company and 'farmer C' over here was growing Monsanto's, what has happened through cross-pollination is that you now have the three genes in one plant. So it´s now become a super-weed that takes different chemicals to kill. It has moved into grain fields and all other fields besides canola. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a field in western Canada that's not contaminated."

spraying chemicals

Percy Schmeiser from Monsanto Attacks!


Schmeiser, Nelson Take Their GMO Experiences To Texas

(Oct. 19, 2001 - CropChoice news) - In person and on video tape, Percy Schmeiser and Rodney Nelson shared their messages about lawsuits and genetically engineered crops with an audience of 200 people at the University of Texas at Austin last week. The crowd gave a standing ovation to both farmers after hearing about how their families have been defending themselves in separate court battles against Monsanto. The St. Louis-based chemical and biotechnology company has sued them over what it regards as patent infringement. In adherence to its policy of CropChoice avoidance, Monsanto representatives would comment on no aspect of this story.

Fred Walters, editor and publisher of the national agriculture magazine Acres U.S.A., a self-described "voice for eco-agriculture," introduced the speakers and provided a background and context for the issues to be discussed.

Activist, author and former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower spoke about the growing influence of agribusiness in the context of expanding corporate power in the United States and throughout the world.

Hightower urged the crowd to remember the exhortation of a 19th century woman activist - "raise less corn and more hell" - whenever they feel daunted by Monsanto lawsuits against dozens of farmers and investigations of thousands more. "Monsanto is not going to stop until we stop it," he said.

He praised the bravery of Schmeiser , Nelson and their families and called for a switch to sustainable farming practices. "Farmers are using 8 billion pounds of pesticides per year, which is 20 pounds for each man, woman and child," he said.

After Hightower had laid the groundwork, Percy Schmeiser took to the podium. The grower of canola, oats and wheat is appealing a Federal Court of Canada ruling that he infringed the patent on the canola that Monsanto had engineered to resist its herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).

Schmeiser claims that pollen from the so-called Roundup Ready canola cross-pollinated with his conventional varieties.

University of Manitoba cropping specialist Martin Entz spoke to CropChoice in July about the ease with which the oilseed plant cross-pollinates. He has been involved with the work on containing the transformation of the Roundup-resistant variety from a crop into a nuisance weed, which could worsen in the future because of its long soil life. During the registration process for the transgenic canola, Monsanto never acknowledged the tendency for the plant to spread or issued precautions that farmers should take, he said. To him this symbolizes the loss of control for farmers when it comes to genetic engineering; to read more about this and about the intention of Monsanto to introduce herbicide-resistant wheat over the objections of farmers and foreign markets go to 'Farmers Fight Introduction Of Roundup Ready Wheat In Canada'

Since Roundup Ready and other biotech crops came on the market, Monsanto has investigated and sent lawyers after hundreds of U.S. and Canadian farmers. It alleges violations of its technology rights. Almost all farmers the company has accused have chosen to settle out of court, making five and six figure payments to Monsanto and signing settlements that prohibit their talking about the experience.

These contracts and settlements represent, Schmeiser said, "a total muzzling of farmers’ freedom of speech and rights."

He spoke to the Austin crowd at length about the case, what he calls the "seed police" that Monsanto sends to investigate farmers, and the destruction of farm communities to which these lawsuits and patents on life are contributing.

The issue has three components, he said:

- property rights versus patent law,

- health and safety, and

- damage to the environment.

Schmeiser then listed some specific problems with the technology:

- poor quality,

- lower yields,

- loss of markets and lower prices for GMO products,

- loss of seed selection as the biotech industry selects the better    varieties for genetic modification and subsequent patenting,

- lack of food security, and loss of indigenous varieties

Thanks to ever increasing cultivation of transgenic crops, cross-pollination with the help of the wind, the birds, the bees, other insects, and even people, Schmeiser said, "There is no such thing as pure canola in Canada or in the United States. There’s no pure soybean seed. Corn is also contaminated. All organics are contaminated and this is a tremendous economic loss to organic and conventional farmers."

"I have been asked many times," he told the crowd, "Are you totally against GMOs?´ It is difficult to answer.  All of us want to be on the leading edge of new technology, but with GMOs - at what price?  It´s wrong when life-giving form destroys the property of others.  If it is not safe to eat, if it is not safe for the environment, then I say it is wrong. Until there is adequate testing, I say no to GMOs."  (Editor´s note: few independent, third-party, peer-reviewed tests have been carried out on the health and safety of these crops to humans and the environment.)

Rodney Nelson couldn´t attend the conference, so he sent a taped address. He and his family grow soybeans, wheat and sugar beets on about 8,000 acres in North Dakota.  They twice planted Monsanto Roundup Ready soybeans and were twice dissatisfied with them because of poor yields and the need to apply more Roundup, contrary to the promises of the company.

In 2000, Monsanto accused the Nelsons of saving and replanting the soybean seed, an infringement of the patent.  The fact that the North Dakota State Seed Arbitration Board found no evidence of this failed to dissuade Monsanto from pressing on with its lawsuit.  In addition, despite the fact that the lawsuit had not even gone to trial and no guilt had been established, Monsanto sent hundreds of letters to farm suppliers in North Dakota and Minnesota with instructions to avoid selling any Monsanto products to the family.

Both Nelson and Schmeiser said that the U.S. and Canadian governments are helping the biotechnology industry research these crops and then allowing companies to patent them.

Nelson talked about his written request for help from Attorney General John Ashcroft in the family´s case. The respsonse to his plea read: "It´s not our policy to get involved in private litigation matters."

It was quite inconsistent then, Nelson said, for Ashcroft to ask the Supreme Court, in the case of Pioneer Hi-Bred International v. J.E.M. Ag Supply, for protection of plant patents.  That the nation´s chief law enforcement agent wants to "uphold plant patents to protect corporations, yet refused to help farmers - felt like a cold slap in the face," Nelson said.  "It makes a person wonder if all government is up for sale to the highest bidder."


Jim Hightower Attacks 'Monsanto's Intimidation' of Farmers and Their Crops

by Monette Taylor
Country World News South Central
October 18, 2001

"I think that's what they want from us ... not to question the food supply ... just trust that our government is going to take care of us, protect us, and the hard working farmer is going to continue to do what he's always done," said Fred Walters, editor of Acres USA, in an introduction concerning genetically engineered seeds of controversy.

Walters was referring to the agricultural establishment that has the ability to control the quality of food produced for the consumer.

The meeting, held recently on the U.T. campus in Austin, was led by former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, along with presentations from farmers Percy Schmeiser of Canada and a tape from Rodney Nelson from North Dakota.

Acres USA is a publication written for commercial scale farmers and addresses technical questions and the latest technology that will allow producers to grow food without chemicals or genetic engineering for a healthy, clean food supply, said Walters.

"We try to be ahead of the curve," he added, after stating that the general feeling from big companies who produce the genetically engineered seeds just want the general public to "shut up and eat."

All speakers spoke of Monsanto as a "biotech bully" who threatens farmers' and consumers' rights, and threatens consumers' health without reservation.

"Monsanto's response is:  Monsanto should not have to vouch for the safety of biotech food.  Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring it's safety is the FDA's job," said Walters.

Hightower had even more harsh words concerning Monsanto for the crowd which included students, producers, media and other concerned consumers. "In Percy's (Schmeiser) case ... the arrogance goes by the name of Monsanto.  Monsanto is a bully.  Monsanto is a thug.  For fun and profit, it has long been tampering with the world's food supply.

"It's been a leader over the last 40-50 years in dousing our earth, our sky, our water, ourselves ... the entire ecosystem with so many pesticides that every single one of you in this room, everyone in the world, every critter on earth is contaminated with these pesticides, in deed, with dozens of these pesticides," said Hightower.

He claims that producers use about eight billion pounds of pesticides on crops in the U.S. each year.

"They (Monsanto) are insisting that farmers put ever more of these pesticides on their crops.  Pesticides that are killing the farmers and literally killing farming.  The run off of these pesticides from the fields are getting into the water.  More than 100 pesticides are now in the ground water in 40 different states," said Hightower.

Economically, it is costing farmers eight billion dollars a year just to purchase the pesticides and "... more than 1,000 farmers, each week, are going out of business in this country, today," he said.

While Hightower claims that 80 percent of the general public in America, Europe and Japan don't want these pesticides, the agricultural establishment's response has been to "attack the consumer."

"If ignorance ever goes to $40 a barrel, I want drilling rights on their (ag establishment) heads, I'll tell you that!" said Hightower.

Regarding genetic engineering, he said that companies such as Monsanto are "tampering with the very DNA of our food," and after doing so, disallow labeling of the genetically altered organisms.

He claims this is because Monsanto and the FDA have personnel who seem to rotate back and forth between the two facilities.

"The issue here is not a couple of farmers.  The issue here is not cotton and corn and canola or soybeans. The issue is not even tampering with the food supply.

"The issue is the most fundamental issue of democracy.  It asks this question, the same question that democracy seeking people have always had to ask:  Who the hell is going to be in charge?  A handful of corporate greed-heads, or we, the people?' That's what it comes down to," said Hightower.

Schmeiser spoke of his continuing fight in the courts with Monsanto, after they claimed to have found their canola seed in his fields without permission.

"What has happened to me can happen to anyone," said Schmeiser.

He has been in farming for 53 years in Western Canada as a seed saver and seed developer, along with 25 years as a public servant for the Parliament and as mayor of his community.

The lawsuit filed in 1998 by Monsanto claimed that "I had illegally obtained Monsanto genetically altered canola without a license, and that I had infringed on their patent by doing so," said Schmeiser.

According to the speakers, it is common knowledge that seeds can be scattered by the wind, trucks and birds, among other ways, and used Mexico areas as an example.

Schmeiser said he never wanted nor purchased any of the genetically engineered seed and certainly didn't plant it in his fields.

He said that although he informed Monsanto that he had no interest in their  products, they didn't believe him and continued to try to intimidate his family.

"My grandparents came from the old country, first to the U.S. in  the 1890's, and from there into Canada. My father and mother were both born in the U.S.," said Schmeiser, relating that the reason they left Europe in the first place was to get away from control such as Monsanto seems to have in the U.S.

"So far, the courts have not allowed farmers to sue for genetic pollution, but they are allowing Monsanto to sue for genetic theft," said Walters.

According to Schmeiser and the others, there seems to be a large discrepancy concerning U.S. patent law and farmers' rights.

"Monsanto is not going to stop until we stop it, and that is the basic message here, tonight," said Hightower in his closing remarks.


Monsanto Attacks!

By Chris Womack
Texas Observer
November 9, 2001

A Canadian Farmer Takes on a Seed Giant

In 1998, Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto, the multinational agribusiness company, for illegally growing a genetically engineered variety of canola that Monsanto has been aggressively marketing for the past five years. The plant, known as Roundup Ready Canola, is resistant to Roundup, Monsanto´s popular herbicide. Monsanto argued, successfully, that Schmeiser had violated the company´s patent on the product by obtaining and growing the seed without its permission. In fact, Schmeiser claimed, it was Monsanto who was in the wrong. Either through cross-pollination or via wind borne seeds, a neighbor´s Roundup Ready Canola crop had invaded his own canola fields, genetically contaminating his own carefully bred variety of canola, which Schmeiser had personally developed through natural methods. Schmeiser is appealing Monsanto´s first-round victory.

A major producer of genetically engineered crops (often called GE crops or  GMOs, for genetically modified organisms), Monsanto has become the second-largest seed supplier in the world through rapid purchase of smaller seed companies. As the controversy over genetic contamination grows, Schmeiser´s case is being carefully watched by all sides in the worldwide fight over the spread of genetically modified food and, ultimately, control of the food supply. Schmeiser is touring the U.S., India, Europe, and Asia to talk about his fight with Monsanto. On October 10 he spoke at a forum at UT Austin´s Sid Richardson hall.

T.O.: Had you ever planted any of Monsanto´s crops?

P.S.: No. I never, ever had anything to do with Monsanto. Never bought the seed, I didn't even know a Monsanto rep or went to a meeting. I was developing my own seed for a long period of time - fifty years in fact. So I never, ever planted their seed.

T.O.: How did you find out you had a Monsanto crop in your fields?

P.S.: To maintain weed control, we'll generally spray with Roundup. And this one year - 1998 - we found that there were some canola plants that didn´t die.

T.O.: How did Monsanto find out?

P.S.: It came out in my court case that a former employee of Monsanto had rented some of that land a year or two before. He told Monsanto I possibly could have some of Monsanto´s Roundup Ready Canola in it. And it was quite obvious when you drove down the main road, you'd see something dead, but plants growing in it, and they were canola.

T.O.: How did Monsanto claim this canola got into your field?

P.S.: By either stealing it - they even went that - or getting it illegally from a seed-house or whatever. So, anyway, I stood up to Monsanto and said, "No way. I never had any. You destroyed my fifty years of development." So eventually it went to court. But in pretrial just before court, they said that they had absolutely no proof that I had obtained the seed illegally. But they said that didn't matter. The fact that there are some of their plants growing on my land infringed on their patent.

T.O.: How likely is it that your canola became Roundup resistant by pollination with patented plants?

P.S.: I'd say cross-pollination would be a smaller way. But the big way - my neighbor, we found out in court, had grown it in 1996 right next to me. A whole half-mile. There was a windstorm and a lot of it blew into my field.

T.O.: The pollen blew over?

P.S.: No, the seeds. So the judge ruled it doesn't matter how it got there, even if my crop was cross-pollinated. He said if pure seeds got onto my land and mixed with my plants, my whole crop becomes their property because now you can't distinguish which plants are GMO. So he ruled that all my profits from my 1998 canola crop go to Monsanto - even from fields that were tested and had no contamination.

T.O.: Some plants in your crop might have a single gene that Monsanto spliced into canola. Because Monsanto patented this canola, the presence of a single gene among all these plants, most of which don't have this gene, means that Monsanto owns the whole thing?

P.S.: That's right. You can imagine how far-reaching that decision is. Think about farmers all over the world, people that own trees or plants or flowers: Gene gets in . . .

T.O.: What sort of agreement do farmers enter into when the buy seed from Monsanto?

P.S.: You sign a contract, and in the contract it says you must allow Monsanto's police to come on your land for three years and you´re not allowed to save your own seed. You've always got to go back and buy your seed each year.

T.O.: Why would a farmer sign an agreement with Monsanto?

P.S.: In Canada, farmers were told by Monsanto that if you grew Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola, it would be a bigger yielder, more nutritious, but most of all would need less chemicals. And I think that issue - less chemicals - really got the farmers' ears because we'd been using chemicals by the hundreds of tons since the war. Our land is polluted, we're doing damage to the environment, our water's contaminated.

T.O.: Monsanto was marketing it to do all these things?

P.S.: They also said, "Now we'll all have sustainable agriculture, we'll now be able to feed a hungry world." Now, in four years, what happened? They never developed canola, they just put a gene in, you see. They just took a crop from another company, put a gene in, and through patent law it was theirs. Taking an old variety doesn't give you more yield. The quality was a lot poorer and farmers that grew it found out they were only getting half the price of conventional canola.

T.O.: OK, how about Monsanto's claim that you'd use fewer chemicals?

P.S.: Farmers are now using from six to 10 times more chemicals because what has happened is that we've developed a new super-weed from genetic engineering. There are about five companies, maybe there are more, but about four or five that sell GMO canola. So if you had 'farmer A' growing a GMO canola from a company over here and 'farmer B' was growing a canola from another company and 'farmer C' over here was growing Monsanto's, what has happened through cross-pollination is that you now have the three genes in one plant. So it´s now become a super-weed that takes different chemicals to kill. It has moved into grain fields and all other fields besides canola. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a field in western Canada that's not contaminated.

T.O.: Do you think farmers view Monsanto less favorably now?

P.S.: Very much so. But the big issue too is their police and how they harass and intimidate people. They also advertise in brochures that if you think your neighbors are growing Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola without a license, you should rat or squeal on them. And then Monsanto will send out their police force to this farmer, although he may never have grown any. They interrogate him, they harass him, they intimidate him, they say, "We got this tip or rumor that you're growing Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola without a license and that if you don't come clean we'll get you." So talk about Gestapo-type methods! So when those people leave this farmer's home, what it has done to me, is one of the worst things that could happen because it's breaking down the social fabric of our rural communities. So the trust, the working together, that's all broken down. To me, it is dragging down our farming communities to that low level of Monsanto's culture. The other issue is that if a farmer's not home, they'll send an extortion letter that says, "We've got reason to believe you might be growing Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola. We think you've got so many acres." This one case where the farmer supplied me the letter said, $27,500 and we won't take you to court." How many thousands of these letters were sent out? We don't know.

T.O.: How does all this affect Texas farmers?

P.S.: What about the organic farmers? Through the economic impact and loss of seeds and plants through cross-pollination. How does it affect Texans? Anybody that raises crops for exports, their exports to Europe [where GE food is heavily regulated] are all cut off. So now they want to come out with GMO wheat, and if they do, a lot of the countries in the world that purchase American and Canadian wheat have already notified the Canadian wheat farmers and farmers in Montana and North Dakota that they will not buy that wheat. So the economic impact now is a very, very large issue. And that in itself will stop the introduction of GMO wheat. If farmers raise a product they can't sell - why raise it and financially get ruined over it?

T.O.: What other countries outside of Europe restrict GE foods?

P.S.: A lot of Asian countries, Thailand for example. Japan is getting very jittery, and after the first of the year they´re having a whole new look at whether they're going to import. They've already stopped importing certain foods. I think already there's soya.

T.O.: I heard you mention earlier that there was a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto [filed by organic farmers in Canada]. On what basis will they sue?

P.S.: There will have to be a number of issues. There is no such thing now as pure canola seed left in North America. There is no such thing as pure soybean seeds in the U.S. It's all contaminated. Those are all big liability issues. Now, you can see the danger of this. If you get down to one or two varieties in any species and there's a blight or a disease, you've got no other crops to fall back on.

T.O.: What's the next step for you?

P.S.: I've appealed the judge's decision. A lot of legal people in Canada feel that it's time to put a stop there, that it has to go to the Supreme Court. The whole issue of patent rights has to be addressed. Can you patent a life-giving form in the first place, and if you can, who can patent it? An individual, a company? How far can you go, ultimately? Whether it's a seed or a plant, bird, insect, fish, ultimately a human being - how far can you go? So basically what the judge ruled is that patent law takes all the property rights and farmers´ privileges away. In Canada, we have a federal law stating that a farmer can always use his own seed from year to year. Monsanto's patent takes that all away.

T.O.: Why is this so important to you?

P.S.: My fight is for the property rights of farmers, farmers' privileges versus the multinationals' intellectual property law. I believe that a farmer should always, always have the right to use his own seed. That right should never be taken away because some of the best seeds, the best plants on this planet were not developed by scientists and research people. The basic development was done by farmers.

T.O.: Are you opposed to all genetically modified crops?

P.S.: I thought all my life that I always tried to be up-to-date, whether it was the latest farm equipment or the latest technology or whatever. If anybody brings a product onto the market that destroys the property of others and possibly does harm to others in food or the environment also - and no matter how good this product is, if it does those things I just said, the negative side, then I say, "No, I'm against it." Because nothing should be brought out that destroys the property of others. I lost 50 years of research development on my canola, and I developed canola that [was] resistant to most of the major diseases in western Canada. That was all destroyed. What recourse do I have? Sue a multinational? Who can?

Observer intern Chris Womack is a writer in Austin.

Related link: Facing Down Goliath - Acres USA interview with Percy Schmeiser


Genetically Engineered Seeds Of Controversy:
Biotech Bullies Threaten Farmers and Consumer Rights

WHEN: October 10, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
WHERE: Bass Lecture Hall, University of Texas, Austin
WHO: Jim Hightower, Former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture
            Farmers Percy Schmeiser and Rodney Nelson
            Fred Walters, Editor of ACRES, USA

Genetically engineered crops have invaded the food supply from the farm to the grocery shelf. Many farmers don't want to grow the stuff and a majority of consumers would like to avoid these unlabeled, untested products. Just how is the biotech industry ensuring that before long we won't have a choice?

It all starts down on the farm. Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser and North Dakota soybean farmer Rodney Nelson are coming to Austin on October 10 to talk about their continuing legal battles with Monsanto. You can read about their stories in detail at:

Patent or intellectual property rights are the sledgehammer that biotech corporations are using to monopolize world food and fiber production. Monsanto is using the courts to prosecute and harass hundreds of farmers for alleged patent infringement. But the Schmeiser case is the first to reach a decision. The Canadian judge's conclusion was that it didn't make any difference how Monsanto's patented genes got to Percy's land. Percy is still liable. This decision sets a precedent that will influence other court decisions and invite possible WTO intervention. An interesting coercive tactic currently being offered by Monsanto is to drop charges if farmers will agree to plant their patented genetically modified seeds!

This is a chilling wake-up call that farmers and the consumers who rely on their harvest are in deep trouble. This story began over 50 years ago with the rise of chemical/industrial agriculture. Now the chemical industry is betting its future on biotech/chemical/industrial agriculture. So in addition to toxic chemicals, the environment and food supply are now being subjected to artificial genetic alteration that is disrupting the natural genetic evolution of life on this planet.

The biotech industry is working hard to perpetuate myths that genetic manipulation of the natural world for profit is necessary for the future of agriculture and the solution to feeding the world. An August 14 report estimates that over $12 million dollars have been spent so far this year on pro-biotech TV propaganda in the US alone! Just how many starving people could $12 million feed? Obviously, feeding the world is not foremost on their agenda. Nor is reduced chemical use as many biotech crops are reliant on the use of herbicides and seeds may soon require patented chemicals to trigger plant development.

Join us October 10 to hear first hand how the biotech industry is designing the future of your food, the price farmers are paying and what it means for the consumers' right-to-choose in the marketplace.

Jim Hightower's opening comments will set the tone for this eye-opening event. Fred Walters, editor and publisher of ACRES USA will host/moderate.

Watch "Heartbreak in the Heartland" video online


Meeting the Organic Trade Association: May 17-20, 2001, the Organic Trade Association held their first annual 'All Things Organic' conference at the Austin Convention Center. 'Say No To GMOs!' volunteers passed out this flyer expressing consumer concerns about GMO pollen drift to over 700 OTA members. We are hoping that the OTA will become more pro-active in working toward a moratorium to protect the genetic integrity of organic crops. For a summary of the Organic Trade Association positions on GMOs see: OTA Timetable on GMOs

Organics At Risk From GMO Drift

  • Texas organic consumers welcome this opportunity to open a dialogue with the OTA.

  • We are hoping that the OTA will be responsive to Texas consumers' input and concerns.

  • Texas consumers are seriously concerned about the proliferation of GMOs and the contamination of organics through genetic drift.

  • We expect zero GMO tolerance in organic products.

  • We strongly encourage the OTA to be more pro-active on the GMO issue.

  • GMOs need to be eliminated from all agricultural production to eliminate the risk of GMO pollen drift to organics.

  • We encourage the OTA to educate and team up with mainstream non-organic marketers, producers and processors to reject conventional GMO contaminated food for environmental and public health reasons as well as to preserve the genetic identity of organics.

  • The face of the organic industry is changing. Bigger is not necessarily better for the consumer. We are concerned that organics are being taken over by mainstream industry and that the quality of organics will be compromised as a result.

  • Remember, 'organic' is more than image and marketing.

  • OTA, we're counting on you! Please work with us to insure the genetic integrity of our food while continuing to provide high quality GMO-free products that we can trust.

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