percy and louise schmeiser dragged biotech giant Monsanto to court in
2005 for contaminating their organic rapeseed farm in Canada. The couple was in Delhi recently to attend a conference on genetically modified
organism or GMO. savvy soumya misra spoke to the couple, who are also the recipient of Right Livelihood Award,
on their crusade for justice.
Tracing GM contamination
It is impossible to control cross pollination or seed blown in the wind. In 2005, we noticed some rapeseed plants grown in a nearby field. No rapeseed was grown on that field in the last six-seven years. We began watching our field closely. Being seed developers, we realized there was a contamination. We conducted a few tests and found that there was Monsanto's gm rapeseed in our field.
In case of farm contamination the farmer is supposed to notify the company, so we notified Monsanto. They came and we showed them the plants on which we had carried out experiments. They took samples from our field. A couple of days later, they notified us asking how we wanted to deal with the contamination. We asked them to uproot the crop by hand in our 20-hectare field.
They initially agreed to do that. But later, they said they would not remove the plants unless we signed an order stating that we can never take them to court; no member of my family would be allowed to file a case no matter how much they contaminate us in the future. They also wanted us to sign an agreement of silence. We did not want to give up our freedom of speech.
Clearing the field
Since Monsanto said they would not clear our fields, we removed the plants with the help of two farmers in the neighbourhood and paid them us $640. We sent the bills to Monsanto and then the war was on. Monsanto refused to pay us unless we signed the agreement of silence.
Moving to court
It was only after a year that we went to the Supreme Court. A billion-dollar company was dragged to court for a us $640 bill. Before the hearing, the judge brought us together for an out-of-court settlement. But we could not reach at an agreement. So a hearing was scheduled for March 19.
It was smooth. Before the hearing could begin, Monsanto handed over our cheque. They paid us us $640 and an additional us $20 for the court expenses. It's a big victory for us. The case sets a precedent for farmers to sue companies for contaminating their crops with gmos. Corporations, be it Monsanto, Bayer or Syngenta, have to accept the responsibility for the damages they do.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.