Thursday, May 20, 2004
Canada's Supreme Court Rules on 'David & Goliath' Tomorrow
Tell Monsanto Where To Go!
Letter warnings for Monsanto: There are 5 million Percy Schmeisers.
Bees, beetles and blowing prairie winds can carry Monsanto's
genetically-modified canola a good 26 km - and a whole lot farther if the
transgenic seed or pollen hitches a ride on passing trucks, trains or trousers.
After eight summers in Canada's West, GM canola has earned the dubious status of
a major weed - a common sight in fields, boulevards and cemeteries - and even
backyard gardens. "Canola can winter over for 8 years," says ETC Group's Pat
Mooney in the NGO's Winnipeg headquarters, "meaning GM pollen has probably
travelled a minimum of 200 km since Monsanto first commercialized its patented
seed in 1996." Which is why, Mooney reasons, just about everyone on the
prairies has a direct, personal interest in the May 21st Supreme Court decision.
Gene Giant Monsanto has accused Saskatchewan farmers Percy and Louise Schmeiser
of illegally growing the company's canola. "It's not just farmers," insists
Mooney. "There are about 5 million Percy Schmeisers out here [roughly the
population of Canada's three prairie provinces]. For all any of us know, we
could have Monsanto's canola in our window boxes."
Canada's Supreme Court decision will set a global precedent that will be studied
closely by farmers, jurists, and corporations around the world. Although Canada
doesn't allow patents on higher-order life forms such as plants and animals,
Monsanto believes that its patent on transgenic material gives it a de facto
patent on anything its genes get into. If the Court agrees, the right of
farmers to save seed - a right that has been upheld for 12 thousand years - will
be imperiled and the 1.4 billion people on this planet who depend on farm-saved
seed for their food security will be still more food-insecure. And the burden
with coping with GM contamination will be placed on the farmer rather than the
corporate polluter. If the Court finds for Monsanto, however, it could still
conclude that the Schmeisers did nothing to benefit from the GM seed that blew
onto their property and agree that the corporation is not entitled to damages.
This would not only be a great relief to the embattled family but it would also
be a sharp setback for Monsanto. "With hundreds of other lawsuits pending, the
company's lawyers will be hard-pressed to show that their GM seeds benefit
anybody," Mooney suggests.
What to do? Monsanto claims that anyone who thinks they might have the
company's GM canola without Monsanto's permission must notify the company in
order not to infringe Monsanto's patent. Solution: ETC Group and partner
organizations around the world are asking concerned people to send Monsanto CEO,
Hugh Grant, a letter advising him that Monsanto's seeds may be squatting on
their property. "That puts the ball back in Monsanto's court," Hope Shand of
ETC Group's North Carolina office adds. "It's up to Monsanto to contact the
letter-writer and make amends." "But the form letter doesn't invite Monsanto to
do what they did to the Schmeisers," Mooney stresses. "Monsanto's seeds are
trespassing and the company may have to accept a 'Trespasser Abuser Agreement'
making Monsanto responsible for any damages."
The form letter will be posted on numerous websites around the world over the
next few days. You can print out the letter and send it yourself or click on
"submit" to send the letter by email to Monsanto. ETC Group will send all the
letters to Monsanto by registered mail. Like ETC Group, Monsanto's Canadian
headquarters are in Winnipeg - within easy pollen reach of one another. The
form letter (and cartoons) can be seen at:
For further information:
Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Canada) firstname.lastname@example.org: 204-453-5259
Hope Shand, ETC Group (USA) email@example.com: 919 960-5223
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico) firstname.lastname@example.org: 52 55 55 632 664
Jim Thomas, ETC Group (UK) email@example.com: 44 (0)7752 106806 (cell)
The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, formerly RAFI, is an
international civil society organization headquartered in Canada. The ETC group
is dedicated to the advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human
rights. www.etcgroup.org. The ETC group is also a member of the Community
Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme (CBDC). The CBDC is a
collaborative experimental initiative involving civil society organizations and
public research institutions in 14 countries. The CBDC is dedicated to the
exploration of community-directed programmes to strengthen the conservation and
enhancement of agricultural biodiversity. The CBDC website is