Percy vs Monsanto

I attended the Canadian Organic Growers Toronto conference today, and could easily write a dozen posts.  I’ll write about just one speaker, Percy Schmeiser, who I had first listened to perhaps a decade ago or more at a Toronto Vegetarian Association event.  In those days I was not a food activist at all.  I just liked vegetables and wanted to be informed about what I was eating and feeding my family.  So I went to Mr. Schmeiser’s talk then not necessarily expecting to be convinced of the harm of genetically modified foods.

Mr. Schmeiser’s story is one of profound and infuriating wrong.  When I first heard him speak, he was embroiled in a legal battle with Monsanto, which had identified their genetically modified crop on his field, and demanded that he pay for using their patented product.  As a heritage seed developer, he certainly didn’t welcome Monsanto’s “contribution”, which had contaminated all his fields and destroyed 50 years worth of work.  All he did was refuse to pay.  And in retribution, Monsanto dragged him right up to the Supreme Court, counting on the fact that he would succumb to the immense pressure of overwhelming legal bills.

In the end Monsanto did not win their case, and Mr. Schmeiser set a precedent in Canada protecting traditional farmers from financial liability for unwelcome contamination.  But Monsanto has since only bought up many seed companies and virtually eliminated some types of non-genetically modified seeds from the market.  Under the guise of feeding the world, they are tampering directly with our food security, in a nasty and aggressive attempt to hold the patent to global food production.  Not one of their products increases food yield, and many are designed to be sprayed with the strongest herbicides on the planet, massively increasing the chemical load of the food we eat.

On the good side, the keynote speaker was German MP Bärbel Höhn, who outlined EU legislation regarding genetically modified organisms.  In Europe, GM producers are legally liable for any costs incurred through contamination, so heritage and organic farmers can be compensated if their livelihoods are affected.  Furthermore, significant setbacks are required to help prevent the spread of genetically modified crops.  All GMO foods must be clearly labelled for the consumer, which puts the onus where it belongs – on the company making the dubious product rather than on the wary consumer.  We can have such sane and reasonable policies too.  It’s a Green priority.

One response to “Percy vs Monsanto”

  1. Magda writes:

    Hi Adriana, I just read your article above re GMO food in the Percy vs Monsato case and the events that followed in later years, and I agree with you that it ought to be a Green priority as you stated to put “the onus where it belongs — on the company making the dubious product rather than on the wary consumer.” In fact, I’ve always been in favor of greater and clearer food labeling in general. There are many folks that are actually afraid to make any changes in their food choices because they don’t understand what’s going on, lack of knowledge and proper communication and education often lead to fear based reluctance to explore new ideas.

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