72-year-old Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser is taking Monsanto to the Supreme Court. In 1998, Monsanto accused Schmeiser of planting their patented genetically-modified canola without paying a fee. He said he’d only done what he did every year: collect seeds from his own crop to plant. This made scientists aware of the fact that GM seeds were being spread by the wind into fields where they weren’t planted. The GM plants take over because they’re stronger and more resistant to insects, meaning we may soon have no non-GM varieties of these crops left.
Schmeiser says, “I was very concerned, because we realized that there was contamination of the pure seed we had been developing for half a century. We said to Monsanto when we received the lawsuit, ‘If you have any GMOs in our pure seed, you should be liable and there should be a lawsuit against you people.'”
The judge in the original case ruled that it didn’t matter how the seed got into Schmeiser’s field, he had infringed the company’s patent rights simply by growing and harvesting it without permission. It made no difference that, since he didn’t use Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, he didn’t benefit from the GM plants, which were modified to withstand spraying with the pesticide.
Stuart Wells, of the Canadian National Farmers’ Union, says, “I suspect that there are a lot of farmers who are not even reporting contamination to Monsanto because they don’t want a company with the control they have to know that they have been polluted?[or else they] might end up in the sort of trouble that Monsanto is heaping on Percy Schmeiser.”
Schmeiser has had to mortgage his land to pay his legal fees during the last 5 years. He says, “We felt that what we were fighting for was not only for ourselves, but for farmers around the world, for their right to use their own seed. That’s why we stood up to them.”
According to Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, if we something goes wrong with the GM version of one of our staple foods, and we have nothing left to replace it with, it could lead to our final hour.
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