For those who thought Percy Schmeiser had exhausted all legal avenues in his battle with Monsanto Canada, think again.
The two combatants were back in court on Oct. 18, only this time it was over small potatoes.
Schmeiser again faced down his long-time foe at provincial court in Humboldt, Sask., representing his wife Louise in a small claims case she filed July 28.
She is seeking $140 from the multinational biotech firm for the removal of Roundup Ready canola plants from her organic garden and surrounding shelterbelt. She also wants to reclaim a $20 fee for filing a summons against Monsanto.
Percy Schmeiser said his wife suffers from high blood pressure, so the Bruno, Sask., farmer, who earlier this year saw Canada’s Supreme Court uphold a guilty judgment against him for violating Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready canola, is representing her in the small claims case.
In her statement of claim, Louise Schmeiser said she found volunteer canola weeds in her organic garden and shelterbelt in 2002 and requested Monsanto remove them in a timely manner according to company policy.
“Although they were notified at least two or three times by mail to do this, they failed to come and remove the plants,” she alleged.
She subsequently hired a student to pick the canola plants by hand before they reached the seed stage and burned the material.
On Nov. 30, 2002, she forwarded a bill for $140 to Monsanto, representing the amount she paid the student.
Percy Schmeiser said the small plot of land was a special place for his wife.
“That field that got contaminated, she had it all plucked out. It has been organic for 50 years.”
He said his wife’s case is closely related to his much publicized battle with Monsanto, which came to an end on May 21, when the Supreme Court of Canada found in favour of the biotech company, ruling that Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready canola was valid and enforceable.
“The liability now follows the flow of the gene,” said Schmeiser.
He believes the case could be precedent setting if the judge finds in favour of his wife.
It could potentially assist a group of Saskatchewan organic growers attempting to mount a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer CropScience Inc. for alleged damages to organic crops related to the commercialization of genetically modified canola.
Schmeiser said the judge in Humboldt ruled the case could proceed, but Monsanto has asked for a delay in the trial until March 21.
“In the court they said it was a very important case and asked for an adjournment,” he said. “To me that’s a long time to ask.”
Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said her company is aware of the claim, but insisted it has no merit.
She said the company offered to address Louise Schmeiser’s concerns, but Schmeiser didn’t follow its recommendations.
“Why it’s an issue two years later, I’m not sure,” Jordan said.