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Canadian professor speaks out on Percy Schmeiser decision

(March 30, 2001 --Cropchoice opinion) -- E. Ann Clark, a professor of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, offers her perspective on the Canadian federal court ruling against Percy Schmeiser.


To all the farmers and farm organizations that applauded the prosecution of Schmeiser two years ago, and have since sat back and watched him swinging in the wind waiting for judgment:

a. he was not found guilty of brown bagging or improperly buying or stealing Monsanto seed - indeed, those highly publicized allegations were dropped at the actual hearing stage due to a complete lack of evidence,

b. he was found guilty of having Monsanto genetics on his land,

c. it's doubtful whether there's a farm anywhere in western Canada that does not have Monsanto Roundup Ready canola seed in its soil,

d. if you have it, you are to call Monsanto and they are to come out and deal with it. How, pray tell, are they going to do this - by plucking out the offending plants one by one - for up to 10 years after each contamination event occurred (canola seed can remain dormant under western Canadian conditions including no-till) - during which time you are disallowed from growing canola because if you do, and volunteer Monsanto canola emerges, sets seed, and shatters, it all starts over again?

e. is Monsanto going to come out to your fields not just in the spring prior to planting, but throughout the season, because canola can germinate anytime? Are they going to absorb all costs of these service calls, or will they charge you for it?

f. if you have it, and you call Monsanto to come and clean out your Monsanto genetics, what is to stop them from prosecuting you, as they did Schmeiser?

g. if you do not join in an appeal of this decision - and ensure that the judge that hears the appeal has at least a rudimentary understanding of plant reproductive biology, and has heard of StarLink corn, and that a scientifically sound and defensible decision is made - then you deserve what will most surely happen to you and your neighbors.

To put this into a perspective that everyone can visualize, imagine that the government were to come up with a new law, stating a) that all male calves shall remain intact (not castrated), and b) that all fences must come down.

Imagine further that two-thirds of these calves carry a deleterious trait that reduces the valuation of their progeny. Consider the chaos that would result in the beef and dairy industries.

This is an apt analogy for what government has done by prematurely authorizing the release of transgenic, open-pollinated crops - like corn and canola. Pollen moves, as do bulls. There is no way to build a fence high enough to keep pollen - whether from StarLink corn or from herbicide tolerant-canola - from moving into your land from neighboring fields. Pollen carries transgenic as well as natural traits, and two-thirds of the canola sown in Canada last year was herbicide-tolerant. Pollen has always moved, but for the first time in history, pollen carries deleterious traits - both because of the traits themselves but also, because the pollen carries proprietary genes.

Wake up folks, and see the writing on the wall, as revealed by this remarkably incomprehensible judgment.

E. Ann Clark
Associate Professor
Plant Agriculture
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ont. Canada
N1G 2W1
phone: 519 824-4120 x2508
FAX: 519 763-8933