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Profile: Aaron Mitchell
Aaron Mitchell was a participant or observer in the following events:
On September 2, Mike Robinson sends the canola plant samples taken from Percy Schmeiser’s farm (see August 18, 1997) to Aaron Mitchell, the Monsanto employee who is in charge of the company’s investigation of Schmeiser. Each sample is said to contain between 10 and 40 pods. Upon receipt of the pods, Mitchell removes the seeds and places them in coin envelopes. He then sends them to Merle Waterfield of the Crop Science Department of the University of Saskatchewan for a grow-out test. Only four seeds from each sample are planted. All except one of the plants that germinate from these seeds survive an application of Roundup. The remaining samples are then returned to Mitchell. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 17 ; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 20 ]
Monsanto employee Robert Chomyn requests and receives a sample of Percy Schmeiser’s harvested seeds from the Humboldt Flour Mills where Schmeiser brought his seeds for inoculation (see April 24, 1998). [Washington Post, 5/2/1999] The person who retrieves the sample is employee Morris Hofmann, who, according to Schmeiser, later admits (see After June 19, 2000) that he had either not supplied the seed, or that he supplied seed that was not Schmeiser’s. [Crop Choice, 5/24/2002] The samples provided to Monsanto have apparently been cleaned. (Schmeiser will later testify in court that the seeds he brought in for inoculation were bin-run seed, and thus full of chaff.) [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 19 ] Chomyn sends the seeds on April 28 to Aaron Mitchell, Monsanto’s lead investigator in the case against Schmeiser. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999] Percy Schmeiser is neither consulted beforehand nor informed of the event until 1999. [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 22 ]
Aaron Mitchell, Monsanto’s lead investigator in the Percy Schmeiser case, obtains a back-up sample set of the canola pods that were collected from Schmeiser’s property the previous summer (see August 12, 1998) from James Vancha who has been storing the pods in his freezer. Mitchell takes the seeds to Leon Perehudoff of Prairie Plant Systems who assists him with the grow-out test. Perehudoff will later testify in court that the seeds he receives are clean, though the original sample set of canola pods contained debris. Mitchell claims that he cleaned the seeds by hand even though there would have been no reason to do so in order to grow the seeds. When he is later asked in court to explain how he did this, he will respond that he did it by hand and that it took him about an hour. Another witness, Lyle Friesen, a plant biologist at the University, will testify that the task should have taken “days” to do by hand. All of the seeds included in Mitchell’s grow-out test germinate despite the fact that neither Monsanto’s St. Louis lab nor Friesen (see (August 26, 1999)) are able to so because the seeds were improperly stored and/or moldy. After the plants have grown, Mitchell takes them away to spray them and then later returns with them so he and Perehudoff can count the survivors. For one of the samples, he records an impossible survivor rate of 106 percent—there are apparently more plants in the sample after the spraying than there were before. He then averages this percentage rate with results from the other samples to come up with an average survival rate of 92-96 percent, which Monsanto will later cite as the percentage of Roundup Ready Canola plants in Schmeiser’s 1998 fields. As Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in court, the samples were not collected using a methodology that would have ensured that the composition of the samples were representative of the composition of the fields. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 23-25 ]
Aaron Mitchell, Monsanto’s lead investigator in the Percy Schmeiser case, sends seed samples that were taken from Percy Schmeiser’s farm in 1997 (see August 18, 1997) to Keith Downey, emeritus professor of Agricultural Canada and University of Saskatchewan. Mitchell has been in possession of the seeds since the fall of 1997. The seeds were stored in coin envelopes. When Downey receives the seeds there are very few left—one envelope only contains two seeds, while the envelope with the most seeds has only about 30. According to Schmeiser, the envelopes should contain between 200 and 800 seeds each. Schmeiser, who has been invited to witness the planting of the seeds, later claims that the sample includes numerous cleaver seeds. Schmeiser also says that the sample includes cracked seeds and debris indicating that they had been through a combine. If these samples were indeed the ones taken in 1997, there should be no cleaver seeds, cracked seeds, or debris, Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in the closing argument of Schmeiser’s June 2000 trial (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). Downey’s grow-out of these seeds results in a 50 percent germination rate. All the resulting plants prove resistant to Roundup. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 17 ; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 20 ]
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