Legal fund for Schmeiser GM fight tops $125,000

Financial documents obtained from the Saskatchewan justice department show Percy Schmeiser has received $127,035.41 in donations over the past two years to wage his legal battle against Monsanto Canada Inc.

The Fight Genetically Altered Food Fund Inc. was established to help defray the Bruno, Sask., farmer’s burgeoning legal costs in a battle that has made it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The highest court in the land recently agreed to hear the farmer’s appeal of an earlier decision that he violated Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready canola technology.

Documents show money raised through the fund has been used to pay $119,023.84 in solicitor and court fees incurred by Schmeiser in 2001 and 2002, leaving a surplus of nearly $9,000.

Schmeiser’s personal website paints a different picture than that revealed in the most recent income statement and balance sheet of the nonprofit corporation.

The home page of his website Monsanto vs. Schmeiser: The Classic David vs. Goliath Struggle, includes an outline of the case. As of June 9, it included the sentence, “Schmeiser says he has received donations of about $12,000 to help his legal bills – mostly in $50 and $100 cheques from other farmers.”

When asked about the $115,000 discrepancy Schmeiser said: “I don’t think that’s on my website. I don’t remember seeing that.”

He said the website might contain outdated information or refer to only a portion of his legal costs.

Another article on the website, profiling Schmeiser and his wife, Louise, tells readers that despite overwhelming support, “the financial toll has been extreme” and the legal bills surrounding the case “threaten their farm.”

The man whose case has made headlines around the world said that’s true. Schmeiser estimates he has incurred about $250,000 in legal fees since 1998 with most of that paid out of his own pocket.

“We’ve spent all of our retirement money (and) we’ve mortgaged our land to pay a good portion of that.”

While organizations and people around the world are helping to defray legal costs, the case is still a huge burden on his farm, said Schmeiser.

Court appearances, interviews and speaking engagements in dozens of countries have preoccupied him for the last five years, leaving him little time to devote to his farm in Bruno.

Schmeiser said “a lot” of the donation money in his legal fund came from his own pocket. He couldn’t provide an exact amount but estimated at least $50,000 and “maybe even more” of the amount, which is listed as donations, was his own cash.

Legal costs will continue to mount as Schmeiser carries his appeal to Canada’s highest court.

“I hope I can get donations to help me pay for the Supreme Court because I imagine that’s going to cost quite a bit of money.”

Schmeiser was originally found guilty by Federal Court of Canada justice Andrew MacKay on March 29, 2001. That decision was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeal on Sept. 4, 2002.

If the Supreme Court upholds those earlier decisions, Schmeiser’s legal bill is going to grow substantially. He will also have to pay Monsanto’s tab for the initial case, which came to $153,000. Plus, he will owe the chemical-biotech company an award of $19,832.

A decision in his favour would negate those additional costs.

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