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Saskatchewan Farmer Fights for Future of Food


On March 29, 2001, the transnational drug and chemical company Monsanto won its case against 70-year-old Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.

On March 29, 2001, the transnational drug and chemical company Monsanto won its case against 70-year-old Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.
In a 62-page decision, the newly retired federal court Judge Andrew McKay ruled that Schmeiser violated Monsanto's biotechnology patent when its genetically engineered Roundup Ready canola was found on his 1,400-acre grain and oilseed farm. The decision took away Schmeiser's and all Canadian farmers' fundamental right to save their own seed.

Prior to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act passed by the Mulroney government in 1991, Canadians had political control of agriculture. Most seed for agricultural crops was developed by plant breeders working for Agriculture Canada or universities. The seed was then distributed to registered growers. Farmers could buy the seed to multiply and resell, maintaining the right to keep it for his lifetime or sell it. It was his.

Schmeiser had been saving his own canola seed for 50 years. Every year he and his wife walked through their fields and selected the best seeds for the following year. He was proud of his own variety. When Roundup Ready canola pollen drifted into his field, it contaminated his seed. In one season he lost all the results of his many years of selecting and saving.

Schmeiser doesn't know how Monsanto's seed got into his field. Honeybees and even the wind can carry pollen for miles. Evidence was produced in court that his neighbour had grown Roundup Ready canola in 1996, unknown to Schmeiser.

A farmer growing Roundup Ready canola must buy both the seed and herbicide from Monsanto and pay a royalty of $15 per acre. (Several other seed companies enforce similar contracts). On my farm, it would amount to three to four times my annual municipal taxes.

Transnationals and Health Canada scientists claim they have tested GMO food products for safety. The only place they can be tested is in people who eat them. However, without labelling, people can't pinpoint what has made them sick. Even with labelling it will take at least a generation to test their safety.

It's obvious that international consumers don't want GMO grain and oilseeds. Their development has nothing to do with the betterment of agriculture and feeding a hungry world. Its purpose is to give transnational companies control of the family farm and to pollute organic farmers' fields and make their products unsaleable as certified organic. Organic growers don't need their toxic pesticides and herbicides. Without them, food and water would no longer be polluted and sales of drugs would drop. Transnationals would lose royalties as well as pesticide and drug sales.

Monsanto wants to establish a GMO wheat test plot in Wales, reports Schmeiser, who visited the area in April of this year. London merchants have told the farmers that if they let Monsanto establish the test plot, they won't buy their organic products any more.

Prince Charles, himself an organic farmer opposed to GMOs, asked to meet Schmeiser when he visited Saskatchewan this spring. His request was denied by provincial protocol officials. Federal and provincial tax dollars have been pouring into Saskatoon in an effort to make it the GMO capital of the world.

Percy Schmeiser is appealing the Monsanto decision. Having already spent his retirement savings on this case, he's going to need financial support. His trust fund is:

Fight Genetically Altered Foods Inc.
CIBC Account # 38-01411
603 Main Street
Humboldt, Saskatchewan S0K 2A0

GE Wheat Test Plots Secret
Although the Canadian Wheat Board, which has a monopoly on all wheat grown on the prairies, has demanded a moratorium on genetically engineered wheat, the federal Health Protection Branch has approved a permit for Monsanto to test plant one variety there. This is now under way in Alberta, despite the added objections of farmers and consumers.

Wheat is Canada's major food export product, with over 75 per cent of production exported. It will be impossible to segregate GMO from non-GMO wheat in the future. All Canada's western farmers, organic and conventional, will lose their export markets. They have already lost their canola market.

Alberta's 250 organic growers, with 44,000 acres of organic wheat, risk the terminal contamination of their crops as genetically modified pollen drifts from the test plots. Saskatchewan has over 1,000 organic growers farming a million acres. Manitoba's 250 organic farmers till about 200,000 acres.

The location of the 20 Alberta test plots is secret. In Europe, similar plots were destroyed by angry citizens. For more information, contact Sharon Rempel,

Chemicals Formed in Irradiated Food
Exposing food to ionizing radiation can lead to the formation of bizarre new chemicals called "unique radiolytic products" that can cause serious health problems. A recent German study confirms one chemical formed in irradiated food can damage DNA: the newly discovered chemical, 2-DCB, caused significant DNA damage in the colons of rats that ate the substance.

Food irradiation is designed to sterilize food using radioactive isotopes or a linear accelerator to create the radiation equivalent of 10 to 70 million chest X-rays. (Fresh strawberries take five to eight minutes to irradiate, frozen chicken 20.) Two isotopes used--cobalt-60 and caesium-137-are among the most deadly substances known and are waste disposal problems for the nuclear industry.

A complex series of reactions breaks down food molecules into new and potentially dangerous ones, destroying enzymes and vitamins A, C, D, E and K and some B-complex. Fruit juices suffer some of the worst damage.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization argue the process is needed to deal with world hunger and reduce food-borne diseases. Their joint body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, opposes national and local restrictions and irradiation labelling (a "radura" symbol). Codex reversed earlier dose limits of 10 kilograys and now says "one can go as high as 75 kGy, as has already been done in some countries . . . " Canada supports irradiation.

Numerous accidents have occurred at irradiation facilities, with workers injured and radioactive contamination of them, food and the environment. Because the radura symbol is not a mandatory label requirement, buy local and organic food to avoid radiolytic byproducts and protect workers.

Combat Climate Change
A non-profit group is tracking the efforts of Canadians to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Everyday personal emissions account for 20 per cent of the total. You can find out ways to combat climate change, develop a personal action plan and record your activities at the Climate Change Voluntary Challenge and Registry Web site, . Here are a few tips:

Transportation causes 53 per cent of personal emissions.

  • Start carpooling
  • Take public transit

  • Walk, roller blade or bike

  • Maintain car, tire pressure

  • Reduce speed, idling

  • Use bike couriers

Home heating causes 22 per cent of personal emissions--cooling more.

  • Upgrade insulation, caulking and weatherstripping

  • Install energy efficient furnace, windows, set back thermostat

  • Plant trees, use fans, blinds and limit use of air conditioners

Water and water heating account for seven per cent of personal emissions.

  • Fix leaky faucet, install aerator

  • Install low-flow showerhead, toilet

  • Reduce water temperature

  • Install solar panels

Lights and appliances produce seven per cent of personal emissions.

  • Turn lights, computer off when not in use

  • Switch to compact fluorescents

  • Dry clothes on line


  • Change lawn care methods

  • Plant trees

  • Recycle more, waste less

  • Avoid non-recyclable packaging

  • Start composting

  • Buy green power


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Leah PayneLeah Payne