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A letter to Monsanto

(June 25, 2001 CropChoice opinion)

Dear CropChoice,

The other night, I had a dream in which I was a farmer. In my dream I wrote a letter to Monsanto. It went like this:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a grain farmer and this year have been concerned about the presence of RR canola in my wheat and canola fields. As I have never used your patented RR canola, I have to presume that RR seed somehow was spilled on my property, or that RR pollen drifted onto my property or was carried by bees. As I also grow conventional canola (i.e. non RR), I am concerned that it might also be contaminated with the RR gene.

Alarming as this is, what is even more alarming is the fact that, if there is RR contamination of my canola crop, the proceeds from the sale of my whole crop could be confiscated by your company if you were to find this out. I know this to be the case, because I have read the official judgement report for the case where you took Percy Schmeiser to court. You won the case on the grounds that he was guilty because he sold his crop for grain (not for seed) knowing full well that his crop was contaminated with your patented RR canola. It did not matter that he did not want this RR gene on his property, and that losing his crop because of contamination ruined the breeding program that he had been developing for more than 20 years.

Now, I do not want to suffer the same fate. I know that there is a spy system to catch people like me, and that your agents can sneak onto my farm and take samples that are unwitnessed and can even obtain samples of my grain without my approval from an elevator or a seed cleaning plant. Again, I know this for a fact because this is what happened in the Schmeiser case.

So, I am asking you to come and inspect my crops and provide me with a written report of your findings. If there are any RR plants in my wheat or canola crops, I would like these to be removed because I have my own breeding and selection program, and I keep my seed from year to year, so do not want it contaminated with RR canola. In fact, if you can not remove the RR contamination, I may have to take recourse to legal action.

If you discover RR canola, I would like you to provide me with a statement saying that I requested you to inspect my crop, as well as a written report of the results of this inspection, to guarantee that I will not be taken to court and have to surrender all the proceeds of the sale of this crop to your company.

Because of its lengthy seed dormancy interval, RR canola seed can persist in my soil for a number of years. Of course, my land will also be continually at risk from further unwanted contamination from neighboring land. Thus, regardless of the outcome of the above tests, I would request that your company inspect the whole of my property annually, starting this year, and provide me with your test results. If there is any RR canola contamination on any occasion, I would want you to entirely eradicate it, and to pay me for any reduction to my harvest resulting therefrom.

Yours sincerely,

Vancouver, BC