Drop seed case: Schmeiser

A Saskatchewan farmer being sued by Monsanto has asked the courts to throw out the lawsuit for lack of evidence.

In a motion filed in Federal Court on April 22, Percy Schmeiser also accuses the chemical company of slander, trespass and wrongful use of his property.

It’s the latest development in a highly publicized David-versus-Goliath battle between the Bruno, Sask., farmer and the multinational chemical company over use of Monsanto’s glyphosate resistant canola.

No date has been set to hear the application for dismissal, which will be argued in Saskatoon.

Schmeiser’s lawyer declined to discuss the case in more detail.

“We’ll speak in court and let the judge decide what is the right thing to do,” said Terry Zakreski. “I don’t mean to be difficult. When you’re dealing with Monsanto, I have to be really careful and I’ve advised Percy to be very careful.”

Ray Mowling, president of Monsanto, said May 3 the company had not yet formulated a response to the motion to dismiss. Monsanto filed a statement of claim against Schmeiser last August, alleging he planted Roundup Ready canola in 1997 without authorization.

The company says Schmeiser illegally bought the seed from local growers in order to plant his 1997 crop and then retained some seed to plant in 1998.

In an affidavit, Schmeiser “vehemently and adamantly” denied that, saying his 1997 crop was planted with seeds retained from 1996, and any Roundup Ready growing on his land was spread by the wind or by grain trucks traveling roads adjacent to his fields.

The motion to dismiss the case states that Monsanto has admitted in court it has no evidence of anyone providing Roundup Ready seed to Schmeiser. However, Mowling said the issue of where the seed came from is not crucial.

“Our case is built on the fact that he knowingly used our seed and planted it,” he said. “Where he got the seed is interesting but not the critical factor.”

And he rejected the claim that the crop could have grown as a result of wind or other natural means.

The motion also states just because glyphosate resistant canola was growing on his land doesn’t mean the seed was obtained and planted knowingly by Schmeiser.

“Because of the foregoing, the plaintiffs cannot prove the central element of their claim,” it said in asking for the dismissal.

The motion asks that Monsanto pay Schmeiser’s legal costs, saying the company has slandered him, trespassed on his land and wrongfully converted his property to its use.

Court documents say an investigator hired by Monsanto obtained seed samples from Schmeiser’s land in 1997. Schmeiser said that constitutes illegal trespass. He also objected to Monsanto obtaining a sample of his seed from Humboldt Flour Mills in 1998.

Mowling said Monsanto’s case is based on evidence gathered in 1998, after a court order granted the company the right to obtain samples, and anything that happened in 1997 is irrelevant.

As for the allegations of slander and libel, Mowling would say only that the company has been reluctant to talk publicly about the case but has felt constrained to respond to public comments by Schmeiser.

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