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Monsanto foe addresses Columbia Univ. students

(Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

John Sullivan, Columbia Daily Tribune, 09/24/02: Percy Schmeiser, who grows wheat, canola, peas and oats on a 1,400-acre farm in Saskatchewan and is locked in a legal battle with the St. Louis-based multinational firm Monsanto, was cited as telling about 50 students and activists yesterday at the University of Missouri-Columbia that the firm's genetically modified organisms threaten biodiversity, consumers' health and farmers' freedom, stating, "There is no safe distance from these organisms. His talk was sponsored by the Green Party, MU's Students for Progressive Action and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Schmeiser alleged that Monsanto has contaminated farms all over western Canada with its genetically altered Roundup Ready canola seeds, adding that strains of the gene-altered plant, designed to resist Monsanto's powerful herbicide, have sprouted like weeds themselves over farms, golf courses and cemeteries.

Schmeiser was further cited as saying that the genetically stronger canola strain has also invaded farms through cross-pollination and killed off organic strains of canola, and that rather than take responsibility for harming biodiversity,Monsanto has pursued an aggressive strategy of seed monopolization.

Schmeiser collided head-on with that strategy when Monsanto alleged he had been using its seed to grow canola on his farm without permission. The allegation alarmed Schmeiser, who said the presence of Monsanto's seed on his farm would threaten his own crop pedigree, which he said he has been developing since 1947.

Monsanto sued Schmeiser, and the court granted it $19,000 in damages and court costs of up to $100,000. The court also granted Monsanto ownership of any Roundup Ready canola plants grown on farms that do not purchase their seeds, regardless of whether the seeds arrived naturally or were intentionally planted.

A three-judge appellate panel recently upheld the decision and added that Monsanto retained ownership of the crop even when there is a probability the seed was naturally transported and when the farmer is unaware of its presence.

Schmeiser is taking his case to Canada's Supreme Court.