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Nelsons launch new website to highlight their struggle against Monsanto

(Aug. 13, 2001 – CropChoice news) -- To increase awareness of their struggle against Monsanto and to raise money for legal expenses, the Nelsons have created a website – www.nelsonfarm.net.

Monsanto sued the North Dakota farm family on grounds of patent infringement. It contends that the Nelsons saved and replanted its Roundup Ready soybean seeds, transgenically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup. (For more background, click on the following CropChoice stories: Monsanto still suing Nelsons, other growers; www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=326 and Monsanto sues Nelson farm; www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=244.)

By way of a short update on their situation, Rodney Nelson told CropChoice that he and his family met with Monsanto representatives last week. In that meeting, Scott Baucum asked what the company would have to do for the family to settle the lawsuit.

The answer? Issue a written letter of apology to the family and send it, at Monsanto’s expense, to local, state, national and international media outlets, agricultural organizations, and seed and chemical dealers. The company also would have to pay all of the Nelsons’ legal fees.

No dice. Monsanto dismissed that idea.

Instead, the representatives changed their version of the sampling methods on the Nelsons’ fields. In September 2000, people working on behalf of Monsanto claimed to have sampled 5-acre sections of all of their 4,000 acres of soybeans (the family grew only about 3,800 acres of beans, though) in 8 hours. Problem is, that would have been quite difficult. Without accounting for driving time or breaks, the inspectors would have had to sample one grid every 20 seconds, Rodney said.

What’s more, almost half of the fields that the inspectors claimed to have tested and tracked with global positioning systems weren’t fields that the Nelsons farmed. Now, Rodney said, their tune has changed. In the meeting last week, they said that they had sampled the fields in a "moon-shaped arc."

Both versions differ from what Monsanto employee Scott Baucum, who was present at the meeting last week, called standard testing procedure when he spoke in front of the North Dakota State Senate Agriculture Committee, Rodney said. Baucum told the senators that when a field has been harvested before testing, which the Nelsons’ fields had, investigators should sample along field edges and along roadways where harvesting equipment likely missed plants.

"Is he lying now?" ask Rodney of Baucum’s assertions. "Was he lying then? We think they were lying to us both times."