David vs Monsanto

­Imagine that a storm blows across your garden and that now, genetically manipulated seeds are in your crops. A multi-national corporation pay you a visit, demand that you surrender your crops – and then sue you for $200 000 for the illegal use of patented, GM seeds. In this definitive David and Goliath battle, one farmer stands up against a massive multinational, and their right to claim ownership to a living organism.

“We knew by checking license plates that Monsanto or people hired by Monsanto were watching us constantly,” says Percy Schmeiser. When the court ruled in Monsanto’s favour, Percy counter-sued Monsanto for environmental pollution, seed destruction and slander. With the crop he had worked on for 50 years officially “owned” by Monsanto, Percy launched a nationwide campaign defending farmer’s rights. Monsanto did everything they could to stand in his way. “Monsanto is big,” came a voice down the telephone one night. “You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay.”

Percy doesn’t use Monsanto’s popular herbicide “Roundup”. “People have to ask themselves what they are really eating,” Percy says to an outraged auditorium. “Monsanto said Agent Orange was safe – are we now to believe them when they say that roundup is safe?” Percy had no use for the canola seed Monsanto developed to resist Roundup. Yet the court ruled that even if Monsanto’s seed is in a crop by cross-pollination, they own the entire crop as a result of their patent. GMO’s bring lower yield than natural seeds and increasingly toxic food. “The people don’t want GMO’s, they don’t want toxic foods,” Percy declares. “But there is no co-existence between GMO and non-GMO – it’s just a matter of time before it’s all GMO.”

Monsanto have brought fines from $20 000 to $100 000 against several farmers, completely unaware that Monsanto’s canola seed is mixed with their own. “The way the court system in America works is that whoever piles the most money on one side of the balance wins,” says Troy. He lost his case against Monsanto after coming up with $400 000 in legal fees. Monsanto gives out leather jackets to farmers who inform on other farmers who they suspect of using the Monsanto seeds. It’s a way of eliminating competitors and something, which Percy’s wife believes has changed the farming industry for good. “No one trusts anyone anymore,” she sighs.

Percy appeals the Supreme Court decision. Whilst they find that the presence of Monsanto seeds in his field does infringe the patent, without exercising the patent by spraying the roundup on his field, Percy is not liable to pay $200 000 in fines. “Today is a personal victory,” Percy says with tears in his eyes. “Six years of personal struggle – we fought for the rights of farmers to plant their seed from year to year. We never thought it would come this far.”

But the court also ruled that Monsanto own the entire plant as a result of placing a gene in it. “The Supreme court will have to revisit this judgment,” Percy explains, undeterred. “Their decision means that a corporation can control anything they put their genes into or anything they put their patents on. We have more questions than answers now. Who owns life?”

The definitive documentary on our increasingly genetically-modified world

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