He is as persistent as the Roundup Ready canola that keeps appearing in his fields.
Percy Schmeiser is back in the news, threatening to file a lawsuit against his nemesis, Monsanto Canada.
The Bruno, Sask., farmer, who lost a high-profile legal battle against the biotech company that made it to the Supreme Court of Canada, is butting heads with Monsanto again over Roundup Ready plants on his land.
Schmeiser, who is prohibited by the courts from growing Monsanto’s genetically modified canola, contacted the firm in late September about volunteer plants that he said had invaded his 50-acre, chemical-fallow field.
“It’s almost identical to how my field was contaminated in 1998,” said the farmer, who travels the world speaking about his fight with Monsanto.
According to the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, 95 to 98 percent of the 1,000 acres of canola Schmeiser grew in 1998 comprised Roundup Ready plants he knowingly cultivated.
Schmeiser, who has never admitted to planting brown bag seed despite being found guilty by three different courts of violating Monsanto’s patent, claimed this latest incident parallels what happened seven years ago.
“If I would have seeded canola I could have had another lawsuit on my hands,” he said.
On Sept. 21 he called Monsanto and requested that the company remove the unwanted plants.
Monsanto responded to Schmeiser’s call by sending a team of investigators to his farm where they confirmed Roundup Ready canola was growing in his field.
Despite reservations about the claim, the company offered to hand pick the offending plants from the field once Schmeiser signed a legal release that all farmers with unexpected volunteer plants are asked to sign.
The document forever releases Monsanto from any lawsuits associated with their products and forbids the grower from disclosing the terms of the settlement.
For Schmeiser, that was too much.
“I flatly refused to sign any release that would take my freedom of speech or my rights away.”
He doesn’t trust the biotech firm that engaged him in a legal battle that lasted six years.
“They must think I’m absolutely crazy I would ever sign my rights away,” he said.
So on Oct. 21 Schmeiser began removing the plants himself, some of which were shattering, spreading seeds onto his field. He filled a half-ton truck with his first clearing attempt.
In a letter to the company, he estimated that damage to his farmland this year and the next is expected to exceed $50,000. He said he will send an invoice to Monsanto for the cleanup costs.
Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan said the company has done all it is going to do by offering assistance, which it was under no legal obligation to do in the first place.
“In this situation it would appear that Mr. Schmeiser is not really interested in assistance. He’s interested in continuing his media campaign,” said Jordan.
She said Schmeiser was treated no differently than any other producer requesting removal of unexpected Roundup Ready volunteers, despite “puzzling questions” about this particular situation.
The company’s inspectors said the amount and uniformity of the plants across the 50 acres was not consistent with pollen flow and that it was highly unusual to have canola flowering in late September.
In a letter to the company dated Sept. 30, Schmeiser countered that the plants were not uniform, although there were more plants along the side of the field bordering a grid road, indicating the GM seed could have blown off trucks or from other farmer’s fields. And he said volunteer canola will emerge any time of the year when soil and climate conditions are right.