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Profile: Monsanto

Monsanto was a participant or observer in the following events:

1960-1973: Agent Orange Used in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the US military uses about 21 million gallons of Agent Orange to defoliate the jungle in order to deny enemy fighters cover. The defoliant—manufactured primarily by Monsanto and Dow Chemical—gets its name from the 55-gallon drums it is shipped in that are marked with an orange stripe. At least 3,181 villages are sprayed with the highly toxic herbicide, which is comprised of a 50:50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T and contaminated with dangerous levels of dioxins. Much of the dioxin is TCDD, which is linked to liver and other cancers, diabetes, spina bifida, immune-deficiency diseases, severe diarrhea, persistent malaria, miscarriages, premature births, and severe birth defects. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese are exposed, as are about 20,000 US soldiers. According to Vietnamese estimates, Agent Orange is responsible for the deaths of 400,000 people. Because there is a continued presence of high dioxin levels in the food chain of several sprayed areas, the health effects of Agent Orange persist to the present day. According to studies by Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, some Vietnamese have dioxin levels 135 times higher than people living in unsprayed areas. Schecter has called Vietnam “the largest contamination of dioxin in the world.” The Vietnamese believe the herbicide has contributed to birth defects in 500,000 children, many of them second and third generation. Though the US government has accepted responsibility for the health complications in US soldiers that resulted from exposure to Agent Orange (providing up to $1,989 per month for affected vets and more than $5,000 per month for those severely disabled and homebound), the US has refused to compensate Vietnamese victims. To date, no US agency, including the US Agency for International Development, has conducted any program in Vietnam to address the issue of Agent Orange. When asked by Mother Jones magazine in 1999 if the Vietnam government has raised the issue in private talks with the United States, a State Department official responds: “Ohhhh, yes. They have. But for us there is real concern that if we start down the road of research, what does that portend for liability-type issues further on?” [BBC, 11/19/1999; Mother Jones, 1/2000; BBC, 11/15/2000; BBC, 12/30/2001; Associated Press, 4/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Dow Chemical, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: US Military, US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

Over the span of two decades, Monsanto accumulates approximately 650 plant-related biotech patents, including the patent on the 35S promoter, a genetic mechanism used extensively in the biotech industry. All biotech companies using the promoter must pay Monsanto a technology use fee. By 2004, the company has a 29.82 percent share of all research and development in the biotech industry. [Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 13 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto files a patent application in Canada for a technology that makes plants resistant to glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup. The patent would apply to the genes and cells containing the DNA that makes the plant glyphosate-resistant; it would not apply to the plant itself. [Canadian Patents Database, 2/23/1993; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 8 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canada grants Monsanto patent no. 1313830 for glyphosate-resistant plant genes and cells. The patent grants the company the exclusive right, privilege, and liberty of making, constructing, using, and selling the invention in Canada until the patent’s expiration on February 23, 2010. [Canadian Patents Database, 2/23/1993; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 3 pdf file] Though Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Act protects the intellectual property rights of seed developers, Monsanto felt a patent would provide more protection since it would deny farmers the right to save and re-use seeds containing the company’s patented genes and cells. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto obtains Canadian regulatory approval for the unconfined release of its patented Roundup Ready gene (see February 23, 1993) into the environment. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s “Technology Use Agreement” requires farmers to pay a $12 ($15 CAD) technology fee for every acre they plant with Monsanto’s patented seed. Farmers pay the fee to the store where they purchase the seed. Under the terms of the agreement, farmers must deliver all of their crop to an elevator or crushing plant—they are prohibited from saving and replanting any harvested seed. They therefore must purchase new seed every year. They are also prohibited from making the seed available to other farmers, a practice known as “brown-bagging.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] “Monsanto effectively gains a license to control the seed even after the farmer has bought, planted, and harvested it,” notes a 2005 report by the Center for Food Safety. [Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 13 pdf file] For thousands of years farmers have been planting the seeds they collected from the previous year’s harvest. Monsanto’s restrictions therefore cause great concern among organizations that deal with global food security since three-quarters of the world’s food producers are subsistence farmers who plant saved seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] The contract also gives Monsanto the right to come onto a farmer’s land to take plant samples for three years after a farmer has stopped using the company’s seed. Another stipulation in the contract specifies that farmers can only use Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. This clause virtually guarantees Monsanto a dominant share in the non-selective herbicide market for its Roundup herbicide—which has no patent protection in Canada and whose patent in the US expires in 2000. Though many farmers are reportedly happy with the product, few like the provisions in this contract. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] “This is part of the agricultural revolution, and any revolution is painful. But the technology is good technology,” says Karen Marshall, a Monsanto spokeswoman. The company says the no-replant policy is necessary in order to recoup the millions of dollars it has spent on research and development. The company claims its genetically modified seeds are increasing farmers’ yields and making it possible for them to use more environmentally-friendly pesticides. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Karen Marshall, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Kirk Azevedo lands a job with the Monsanto Company. Young and idealistic, he is later described by author Jeffrey Smith as the “perfect candidate to project the company’s ‘Save the world through genetic engineering’ image.” He is fascinated with the company’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, who talks about genetically modified organisms being used to “reduce the in-process waste from manufacturing, turn our fields into factories and produce anything from lifesaving drugs to insect-resistant plants,” Azevedo later recalls. But three months after taking the job, after a meeting at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, a vice president tells him, “What [CEO] Robert Shapiro says is one thing. But what we do is something else. We are here to make money. He is the front man who tells a story. We don’t even understand what he is saying.” [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kirk Azevedo

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto spends $8 billion acquiring, or establishing relationships with, several US and foreign seed companies. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999; Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 9-10 pdf file] The list of companies includes: Calgene, Inc.; Asgrow Agronomics; Asgrow and Stine Seed; Agracetus; Holden’s Foundation Seeds, Inc.; Monsoy (a Brazilian soybean company); Cargill’s international seed divisions (with operations in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central and South America); Plant Breeding International; and DeKalb Genetics (the world’s second largest seed company). Pioneer Hi-Bred is the only major US seed company that Monsanto does not buy out. However, Pioneer has purchased rights from Monsanto to use technology relating to Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt corn. A 2005 report by the Center for Food Safety will say that one of the factors contributing to Monsanto’s cornering of the GM market (see 1998 and later) is its control of these seed companies. “[T]hese companies (often owned or indirectly controlled by Monsanto) had to agree that 90 percent of the sales of herbicide-tolerant soybeans would contain Monsanto’s patented technology. This requirement was later dropped to 70 percent after Monsanto came under scrutiny from government regulators. Through this sort of ownership and control of seed companies, Monsanto has been able to ensure that competition [will] remain small and that its patented genetically engineered crop varieties [will] be the ones most readily available to the American farmer.” [Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 9-10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Calgene, Inc, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Agracetus, Asgrow and Stine Seed, Asgrow Agronomics, Holden’s Foundation Seeds, Inc, Monsoy, Plant Breeding International, DeKalb Genetics, Cargill

Timeline Tags: Seeds

To enforce its “Technology Use Agreement” (see 1996), Monsanto sends detectives into farming communities to ensure that all fields planted with its patented seeds have been paid for. Farmers call them the “Monsanto police.” In the US, Monsanto has a contract with Pinkerton Security and Consulting. In Canada, the company uses Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd., which employs a team of former Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Monsanto also encourages farmers to use a toll-free “tip line” to blow the whistle on noncompliant neighbors. According to one farmer, Monsanto promises to reward snitchers with a leather jacket, an allegation that Monsanto denies. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] Another tactic employed by the company is to place radio ads broadcasting the names of growers caught illegally planting Monsanto’s seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Monsanto threatens legal action against any farmer who it believes has violated the agreement. Suing one’s own customers “is a little touchy,” Karen Marshall, a Monsanto spokeswoman, concedes, adding that after spending so much money on research, Monsanto doesn’t want “to give the technology away.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Craig Evans, the head of Monsanto’s Canadian biotechnology operation in Winnipeg, says: “At the end of the day if we don’t enforce our patent rights, the potential for new technology to come forward to maintain the competitiveness of the industry could disappear, because if you can’t get the return, then you’re going to take your technology somewhere else. We’re just trying to be fair. All I’m trying to do is fulfill the promise of the growers who said, ‘Monsanto, I’m willing to pay you for your technology as long as everyone’s paying.’” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Critics say Monsanto’s actions are tearing away at the social fabric that has traditionally held farming communities together. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/14/2005] “Farmers here are calling it a reign of terror,” according to canola farmer Percy Schmeiser. “Everyone’s looking at each other and asking, ‘Did my neighbor say something?’” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] “Our rural communities are being turned into corporate police states and farmers are being turned into criminals,” Hope Shand, research director of Rural Advancement Foundation International, explains to the Washington Post in 1999. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Pinkerton Security and Consulting, Percy Schmeiser, Craig Evans, Karen Marshall, Hope Shand

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Jane Akre.Jane Akre. [Source: Injury Board (.com)]Investigative reporters Jane Akre and her husband Steve Wilson are hired by WTVT-TV, the Tampa, Florida, Fox News affiliate, to become part of its “Investigators” team. They soon begin filming a report on bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto. Their four-part report finds that BGH poses numerous health risks to milk consumers, including the threat of cancer, and that Florida supermarket chains routinely lie to their customers about not selling milk that contains BGH. Akre and Wilson will later recall that the local station is thrilled with the report. But after Monsanto complains to Fox News chief Roger Ailes about the report, the station’s general manager, David Boylan, tells Akre and Wilson to redo their film: to include statements from Monsanto that the filmmakers know to be false, and to make other revisions to the story that contradict the facts. According to Akre and Wilson, one Fox lawyer tells them that “it doesn’t matter if the facts are true,” what matters is the size of the lawsuit Monsanto might file against WTVT and Fox. Boylan tells the filmmakers that the position of Fox Television is: “We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.” Akre and Wilson revise the story some 70 times, none of which passes muster with the station or with network officials. The couple is variously suspended without pay, suspended with pay, locked out of their workspace, and offered money to “just go away.” In late November 1997, when they threaten to inform the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the incident, WTVT fires them. They will file a lawsuit against WTVT and against Fox Television (see August 18, 2000). [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 6/1998; BGH Bulletin, 2004; St. Louis Journalism Review, 12/1/2007] Wilson later says: “Every editor has the right to kill a story and any honest reporter will tell you that happens from time to time when a news organization’s self interest wins out over the public interest. But when media managers who are not journalists have so little regard for the public trust that they actually order reporters to broadcast false information and slant the truth to curry the favor or avoid the wrath of special interests as happened here, that is the day any responsible reporter has to stand up and say, ‘No way!’ That is what Jane and I are saying with this lawsuit.… We set out to tell Florida consumers the truth a giant chemical company and a powerful dairy lobby clearly doesn’t want them to know. That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for. As we’ve learned the hard way, it’s something you can be fired for these days whenever a news organization places more value on its bottom line than on delivering the news to its viewers honestly.” Akre will add: “We are parents ourselves. It is not right for the station to withhold this important health information and solely as a matter of conscience we will not aid and abet their effort to cover this up any longer. Every parent and every consumer have the right to know what they’re pouring on their children’s morning cereal.” [BGH Bulletin, 2004] Akre and Wilson will win the Goldman Environmental Prize for their original report in 2001. [Prize, 2001]

Entity Tags: Fox Broadcasting Company, Federal Communications Commission, David Boylan, Roger Ailes, Jane Akre, Monsanto, Steve Wilson, WTVT-TV, Fox News

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Between 1997 and 2002, Monsanto makes at least $700,000 in illicit payments to at least 140 current and former Indonesian government officials and their family members in an effort to obtain legislation and ministerial decrees supporting the cultivation of genetically modified crops. The payments are made through Monsanto’s affiliates and representatives who have offices in Jakarta. The largest payment is for $373,990, which is used to design and build a house for a senior Ministry of Agriculture official. Monsanto even purchases the land for the house. “Other examples of improper payments include, among others, payments to a senior official of Budget Allocation at the National Planning and Development Board, totaling $86,690, and payments to other Ministry of Agriculture officials, totaling $8,100,” according to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. $29,500 is given to officials at the agriculture ministry in South Sulawesi, where the first shipment of Monsanto cotton is sent in 2001 (see March 15, 2001). [Reuters, 1/7/2001; Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; BBC, 1/7/2005] The payments are financed in part “through unauthorized, improperly documented and inflated sales of Monsanto’s pesticide products in Indonesia,” Monsanto later admits. [Monsanto, 1/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

According to Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto’s facilitator for genetically modified cotton sales in California and Arizona, he learns from a Monsanto scientist that the company’s GM Roundup Ready cotton not only contains the intended protein produced by the Roundup Ready gene, but also contains additional proteins that are not naturally produced in the plant. These unknown proteins were created during the gene insertion process, the scientist reportedly explained to Azevedo, when the modified genes were inserted into the plant’s DNA using a “gene gun.” Azevedo, who has been studying mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), becomes concerned that these abnormal proteins “might possibly lead to mad cow or some other prion-type diseases.” When he shares this concern with the scientist, he discovers that the scientist has no idea what he is talking about. “He had not even heard of prions. And this was at a time when Europe had a great concern about mad cow disease and it was just before the Nobel prize was won by Stanley Prusiner for his discovery of prion proteins,” Azevedo later recalls. [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006] Azevedo will become even more concerned when he learns that Monsanto scientists are feeding experimental GM cotton plants to cattle (see Summer 1997).

Entity Tags: Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto’s facilitator for genetically modified cotton sales in California and Arizona, will later say that around this time he discovered that Monsanto is feeding GM cotton plants from test fields to cattle. “I had great issue with this. I had worked for Abbot Laboratories doing research, doing test plots using Bt sprays from bacteria. We would never take a test plot and put [it] into the food supply, even with somewhat benign chemistries. We would always destroy the test plot material and not let anything into the food supply.” When he explains to the Ph.D. in charge of the test plot that feeding experimental plants containing unknown proteins (see 1996) to cows is a potential health risk to humans, the scientist refuses to end the practice. “Well that’s what we’re doing everywhere else and that’s what we’re doing here,” Azevedo recalls the scientist saying. Azevedo then raises his concerns with other employees in Monsanto. “I approached pretty much everyone on my team in Monsanto” but no one seemed interested, and in fact, people started to ignore him. Next, he contacts California agriculture commissioners whose responsibility it is to ensure that the management and design of test plots do not pose any risks to public health. But, “once again, even at the Ag commissioner level, they were dealing with a new technology that was beyond their comprehension,” Azevedo later explains. “They did not really grasp what untoward effects might be created by the genetic engineering process itself.” He also tries unsuccessfully to speak with people at the University of California. Frustrated with the company and the government’s apparent lack of concern, he quits his job at Monsanto in early January 1998. [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kirk Azevedo

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Wayne Derbyshire, an investigator with Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, goes to Percy Schmeiser’s farm to obtain plant samples on behalf of Monsanto. Monsanto has hired Robinson Investigation to obtain the samples because the company believes that Schmeiser planted its patent-protected seeds and that he illegally purchased them from a Monsanto-licensed farmer. Monsanto’s “Technology Use Agreement” (see 1996) prohibits licensed farmers from making patented seeds available to other growers. (Selling seeds under the table in this manner is referred to as “brown-bagging.”) [Washington Post, 5/2/1999; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 19 pdf file] One set of samples is taken from a field that later court testimony reveals may not have been Schmeiser’s. The second set of samples is taken from plants owned by Percy Schmeiser that are growing in the ditches and public right-of-way where Schmeiser earlier discovered the presence of Roundup-resistant canola (see Summer 1997). Derbyshire sends the samples to his boss, Mike Robinson, on August 27. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] When Schmeiser later learns of this sampling in 1998, he will accuse Robinson Investigation of trespassing (see March 1998). Farmers are permitted to grow and harvest crops in public right-of-ways, and on this basis, Schmeiser’s lawyer will later argue in court that the crops taken by Derbyshire were in fact property of Schmeiser. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, disputes Schmeiser’s allegation, telling the Washington Post in 1999 that it is not completely clear whether Derbyshire actually crossed Schmeiser’s property line. Angell also asserts that trespassing is neither a criminal nor a civil offense in Saskatchewan. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Monsanto, Wayne Derbyshire, Philip Angell

Timeline Tags: Seeds

As part of an effort to increase the acceptance of genetically modified crops in Indonesia, Monsanto contracts PT Harvest International, a Jakarta-based investment consulting firm. The firm helps Monsanto secure the various government approvals and licenses necessary to sell its products there and also lobbies and allegedly bribes government officials (see Late June 2002) (see September 2000). Much of the lobbying is aimed at opening the country up to Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton, which Monsanto says is environmentally-friendly and less reliant on pesticide. The company also claims its genetically modified seeds will produce as much as 3 tons of cotton per hectare. Much of Harvest’s work is coordinated and overseen by a US-based senior Monsanto manager and two Monsanto-controlled entities based in Jakarta: PT Monagro Kimia and PT Branita Sandhini. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Harvest International Indonesia, Monsanto, PT Monagro Kimia, PT Branita Sandhini

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s net sales for the year is $8.6 billion and its share of the genetically modified seed market is 88 percent. Trailing behind Monsanto are Novartis and DuPont. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Dupont, Novartis, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto has become the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds and the second largest seller of all seed types. Only Pioneer Hi-Bred, soon to be purchased by Dupont (see March 14, 1999), sells more seeds than Monsanto. Within the US, Monsanto directly or indirectly controls nearly half the corn germplasm market and most of the soybean market. Its dominant position in the market has been attributed to several factors: its two-year buying spree of other seed companies (see 1996-1998), its control of a large percentage of the biotech industry’s plant patents (see 1980s-2004), and the Technology Use Agreement (see 1996) it forces farmers to sign. According to a 2005 report by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the availability of conventional seeds to farmers worldwide has been dramatically reduced as a result of Monsanto’s control of the market. “For many farmers across the country, it has become difficult if not impossible, to find high quality, conventional varieties of corn, soy, and cotton seed. Making matters worse, the direction of land-grant university research has been shifting away from producing new conventional seed varieties and toward biotech applications,” the report says. Indiana soybean farmer Troy Roush tells the Center, “You can’t even purchase them in this market. They’re not available.” Another farmer interviewed by the organization, a Texan, similarly states, “Just about the only cottonseed you can get these days is [genetically engineered]. Same thing with the corn varieties. There’s not too many seeds available that are not genetically altered in some way.” [Center for Food Safety, 2005, pp. 9-10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser plants 1,030 acres in nine of his fields with canola. He uses a mixture of seed saved from 1997 and seed saved from previous years. He knows that the 1997 seed was saved from a field where Roundup-resistant plants had been discovered (see Summer 1997). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

A group of Monsanto-hired consultants urge some of Africa’s most prominent academics and politicians to sign a public statement titled, “Let the Harvest Begin.” It would be published “in major European newspapers in early June.” The statement argues that biotechnology is the answer to world hunger. “Many of our needs have an ally in biotechnology and the promising advances it offers for our future,” the statement reads. “With these advances, we prosper; without them, we cannot thrive… Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford.” Monsanto’s name appears on the draft declaration in tiny text. According to reporter and columnist George Monbiot, “readers could be forgiven for imagining that the statement is the initiative of the signatories, rather than the company.” [Global Business Access Ltd, n.d.; Guardian, 6/4/1998]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Robert Chomyn, an employee of Monsanto, calls Percy Schmeiser and informs him that Monsanto investigators would like to visit his property and take plant samples to determine whether he is illegally growing the company’s Roundup Ready Canola. “We have heard a rumor that you are growing Roundup Ready Canola on your farm,” he says. Schmeiser refuses to give the company permission to go on his property. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 23 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rob Chomyn, Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

According to Canadian canola farmers Ed and Liz Kram of Raymore, Saskatchewan, a plane flies over their farm and spray-bombs three 160-acre fields with a herbicide destroying about half an acre in each field. They believe the herbicide was Roundup and that the bombing was done on behalf of Monsanto to determine if they were growing Roundup Ready Canola without having paid Monsanto’s $15 CAD/acre fee. The Krams believe Monsanto was involved because one of the company’s investigators visited them before the incident inquiring about their canola crop. A government representative who comes out to the farm to investigate the incident suggests the crop damage was caused by lightening strikes. “You think lightening struck in the center of all three of my canola quarters?” Kram asks. The representative then takes a sample to a lab. Testing indicates the presence of a chemical, but is presumably unable to determine what kind. Monsanto denies any connection to the incident. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Ed Kram, Monsanto, Liz Kram

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto files a lawsuit against Percy Schmeiser alleging that in 1997 or earlier Schmeiser illegally obtained Roundup Ready Canola seed from an unnamed Monsanto-licensed farmer, planted his fields with the seed, and then saved the seed for the following year’s planting without ever having entered into an agreement with Monsanto. In doing so, Monsanto claims, Schmeiser infringed on its patent. According to Schmeiser, the presence of Monsanto’s patented genes in his crop was a result of infestation, possibly resulting from wind-blown pollen or seed. He recalls that in 1997 (see Summer 1997), after spraying Roundup in his ditches and around telephone poles adjacent to his canola field, approximately 60 percent of the canola plants in that area survived. He then proceeded to spray a trial strip roughly 100 feet wide in the adjacent field which also revealed the presence of Roundup-resistant canola. In 1998, he used the seed from that field mixed in with seed from previous years to plant his 1998 crop (see Spring 1998). [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 5 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto secures a court order permitting the company to take plants from Percy Schmeiser’s canola fields. Monsanto believes that Schmeiser is illegally growing the company’s patent-protected Roundup Ready Canola. Schmeiser is aware that some of his canola is resistant to Roundup but denies that this is the result of any willful action on his part. He claims to have never purchased or otherwise obtained Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola pedigree seed. He thinks the presence of plants resistant to Roundup is the result of cross-pollination or seeds blown from a nearby farm or off passing grain trucks. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Monsanto, in a letter to the court dated August 12, says it will notify Schmeiser’s lawyer before entering onto Schmeiser’s property. The sample is to be collected in the presence of Schmeiser and split between Monsanto and Schmeiser so each party can have it tested separately. According to Schmeiser, Don Todd (Robinson Investigation) and James Vancha (Monsanto), arrive unannounced and do not allow him to accompany them. However, Todd and Vancha will dispute Schmeiser’s version of events in court testimony, saying the farmer had declined to participate because of a “bad leg.” Instructions contained in the court order do not specify that they use any sort of representative sampling technique that could be used to determine what percentage of Schmeiser’s canola plants are resistant to Roundup. Rather, since Monsanto is interested only in proving the presence of the patented gene in Schmeiser’s fields, Todd and Vancha are just asked to randomly collect a total of 54 samples from Schmeiser’s 9 fields (27 for Monsanto and 27 for Schmeiser). In spite of the fact that no method is employed to ensure that the composition of the samples are representative of the composition of the fields, Monsanto will later cite test results based on these samples when making assertions in court about the percentage of Roundup-resistant plants growing on Schmeiser’s farm (see January 1999) [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 24-25 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Don Todd, James Vancha, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

After Percy Schmeiser’s Examination of Discovery, where he denies that he ever obtained and planted Monsanto’s Roundup Ready certified canola seeds, Monsanto drops its claim that Schmeiser “obtained canola seeds which are resistant to glyphosate from one or more persons licensed by… Monsanto Canada Inc.” Monsanto’s amended statement of claim alleges only that Schmeiser planted seed from his 1997 canola crop containing Monsanto’s patented Roundup-resistant genes and cells, and that in doing so, he infringed on the company’s patent. Therefore, the question of how Monsanto’s gene came to be present in Schmeiser’s fields is no longer of any concern to the company. Whether Schmeiser’s possession of the gene was a result of deliberate action or uninvited contamination has no bearing on the question of infringement, according to Monsanto. It asserts that the mere action of planting seeds containing Monsanto’s patented genes and cells—their presence intentional or not—infringed on the company’s patent. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 14 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto has taken legal action against more than 525 farmers whom it has accused of illegally planting its patent-protected seeds. About half of these cases have so far ended with settlements ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each, according to Lisa Safarian, Monsanto’s intellectual property protection manager. The Washington Post reports that according to Safarian, Monsanto “has decided that the risk of alienating some farmers is more than offset by the benefit of being able to promise ‘a level playing field’ for the vast majority of honest customers.” Safarian says that money from the settlements are funding a Monsanto-created scholarship fund to help the children of farmers go to college. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] The money also goes toward other educational programs, such as biotechnology acceptance programs. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] Farmers who choose to settle with Monsanto must pay the $12 ($15 CAD)/acre fee and all the profits from the illegally planted crop. The farmer must also sign a contract waiving his or her right to speak publicly about the settlement. Monsanto, on the other hand, explicitly reserves its right in the agreement to comment publicly on the matter. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Lisa Safarian, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Ray Mowling, a vice president for Monsanto Canada in Mississauga, concedes to the Washington Post that some cross-pollination does occur between Monsanto’s genetically modified plants and other plants. Referring to Monsanto’s lawsuit against Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer accused of illegally growing Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola, Mowling “acknowledges the awkwardness of prosecuting farmers who may be inadvertently growing Monsanto seed through cross-pollination or via innocent trades with patent-violating neighbors,” but explains that Monsanto believes that Schmeiser’s case is “critical” to win in order to protect its patent rights against the use of its seed by farmers who have not paid Monsanto’s technology use fees. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Ray Mowling, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Farmers interviewed by the Washington Post have different opinions of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Ted Megginson, a soybean farmer in Auburn, Illinois, says: “We’re not doing this [farming] for a hobby. We’re looking for net dollars. They’re not holding a gun to my head to make me buy their seeds.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Tim Seifert, a soybean farmer from Illinois, tells the newspaper, “It’s made me a better farmer.” He adds that he saved $5 to $6 an acre the previous year in reduced labor and pesticide costs after planting his fields with Monsanto’s pesticide-resistant soybeans. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Vincent Moye, a farmer in Reinbeck, Iowa, says: “Every year I get catalogues from the seed salesmen, and more and more varieties have the Roundup Ready gene even though I don’t need it. The government’s looking at Microsoft too hard. This is a bigger monopoly. We’re all gonna be serfs on our own land.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Tim Seifert, Ted Megginson, Vincent Moye

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), a Canadian-based organization that advocates on behalf of poor farmers, discovers that seed companies have collectively obtained 29 patents on technologies that would be used to create seeds whose growth could be restricted. Companies are interested in the technology because they can protect their intellectual property rights by preventing unauthorized—i.e., unpaid for—use of the seed. The first known patent for this type of technology was for the “terminator” seed, developed jointly by Delta & Pine Land Company and the US Department of Agriculture (see March 3, 1998). The technology has been condemned worldwide by a number of governments, scientists, and organizations concerned with food security, farmers’ rights, and biodiversity. The revelation that so many companies still want to develop and use this technology—despite such widespread condemnation—leads Pat Mooney of RAFI to say that seed sterility technology is the “Holy Grail” of the biotech industry. “The notorious terminator patent is just the tip of the iceberg,” explains Mooney, “Every major seed and agrochemical enterprise is developing its own version of suicide seeds,” he adds. [Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/27/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 1/30/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Dupont, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Rhone Poulenc

Timeline Tags: Seeds

A bill that would require registration and state-level regulation for seed cleaners is introduced into the Ohio state legislature. Seed cleaners are businesses that “clean” seeds for farmers by removing the chaff (which includes grit, dirt, cut plant material). The proposal, introduced by Rep. Joe Haines, is being pushed by Monsanto. James E. Betts, a Columbus attorney who represents Monsanto, tells the Columbus Dispatch, “One of the things the state has a legitimate interest in is regulating the marketplace. It’s important that every seed a farmer gets is a pure seed and is, essentially, as advertised. The seed-cleaning business is not licensed or registered. It’s a segment of seed market that has not been identified.” Seed cleaners would be required to keep records on every farmer who has seeds cleaned or conditioned. For example, the cleaner would need to record the following: the accepted name and brand or variety of the seed; any patents or plant variety protection certificates associated with the seed; the farmer’s contact information; and the amount of seed being cleaned or conditioned. Farmers would also have to sign an indemnification statement, which would also be held by the seed cleaner. The seed cleaner would be obligated under law to store these records for five years and make them available upon request to the State’s Director of Agriculture. Roger Peters, an Ohio farmer and seed cleaner, asks, “Why should any farmer be forced to keep records on law-abiding farmers who clean their own seed? And why should public tax dollars be used to protect the patents of private seed companies like Monsanto?” Sean McGovern, executive administrator of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farmers Association, has similar feelings about the bill. “I can’t imagine any use for this bill accept to enforce Monsanto’s patents,” he says. [General Assembly of the State of Ohio, 1/28/1999; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 3/7/1999; Columbus Dispatch, 4/4/1999] The bill is not passed. [General Assembly of the State of Ohio, 1/28/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Ohio

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian farmer Charlie Boser discovers between 300 and 500 Roundup Ready Canola plants in a field that was sprayed twice for weeds with Roundup mixtures. “Everything along that quarter was burnt to a crisp quite brown except for the canola,” he later testifies in court. The plants had apparently come to his fields from the east. “I was a little upset to have this contaminant on my land. I’d never used a Roundup Ready Canola.” He contacts Monsanto, who compensates him for one of his spray applications and pays the person who had done the chemical fallow to “get some kids to come pick it out,” according to Boser. A Monsanto representative later informs him that a field adjacent to his was planted with Roundup Ready Canola. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Western Producer (Saskatoon), 6/22/2000]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Charlie Boser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian farmer Louie Gerwing finds canola plants thriving in a fallow field he sprayed with herbicide. He brings a Monsanto-hired investigator to the property who determines it is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola. The investigator documents the infestation on film and then removes the plants by hand. The field, which runs along a busy provincial grid road, contained plants as far as 1000 feet away from the road. It had previously been planted with barley, wheat, and peas. Gerwing speculates that Roundup Ready Canola seeds must have been blown off passing grain trucks during the winter and then distributed around his field by drifting snow. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000]

Entity Tags: Louie Gerwing, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser finds several Roundup Ready Canola volunteers growing in his fields. (Volunteers are plants that grow where they are not wanted.) He contacts Monsanto about the canola plants, but the company’s representatives do not come out to his farm to inspect them. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

In an interview with the Alberta Report, Craig Evans, general manager of biotechnology for Monsanto Canada, refuses to say whether or not Monsanto accepts the responsibility of removing Roundup Ready Canola plants that spread to fields where they are not wanted. “We have 55 representatives out there to help all growers with all weed control problems,” says Evans. “Covering costs depends on the situation. At the end of the day, I don’t want to say if we do or we don’t.” [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Craig Evans

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto CEO Robert B. Shapiro says in an open letter to Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, that Monsanto is “making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed ‘terminator.’” Conway had asked the company’s board of directors to “disavow use of the terminator technology” (see June 24, 1999). Shapiro says the company still intends to research other technologies that would help the company protect its intellectual property rights Such technologies would include ways to switch certain genetic traits vital to a crop’s productivity on or off. Critics have called this technology “traitor” and say that, like terminator seeds, this technology would also threaten biodiversity, food security, and the 12,000 year old practice of seed saving. [Shapiro, 10/4/1999; BBC, 10/5/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robert B. Shapiro, Gordon Conway

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET) files a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto on behalf of a group of Iowa, Indiana, and French farmers. The suit alleges that Monsanto failed to ensure that its genetically modified seeds were safe for consumers and the environment before it brought them to market. It also claims that the company, which has bought out numerous seed companies in recent years (see 1996-1998), seeks to control world production of agriculture and food through the spread of its patented genes. “Through various anti-competitive practices, it seeks to control world production of agriculture and food, with particular concentration on power over seeds,” says Jeremy Rifkin, the foundation’s president. “What this means is that if the companies get their way, no farmer in the world will ever own a seed again. If that doesn’t hold implications for anti-trust law in the world of agriculture, then I don’t know what does.” [Reuters, 12/15/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Jeremy Rifkin, Foundation on Economic Trends

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Biotech giant Monsanto and drug maker Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. agree to merge. Together the two companies have a combined market value of about $52 billion. [New York Times, 12/20/1999] Shortly after the merger announcement, Monsanto says it has decided to drop its bid (see May 11, 1998) for Delta & Pine Land, the cotton seed company that shares a patent (see March 3, 1998) with the Department of Agriculture for terminator technology. [Reuters, 12/22/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc, Delta & Pine Land Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Shortly after Monsanto announced (see October 4, 1999) that it would not commercialize sterile seed technologies, the Department of Agriculture’s Richard Parry tells the Wall Street Journal, “I think Monsanto needs to carefully reconsider its position.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/22/1999]

Entity Tags: Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s 2005 “Technology Use Agreement” (TUA) includes several provisions that were not present in its 1996 agreement (see 1996). The company’s TUAs have been heavily criticized by farmers and groups concerned about food security and farmers’ rights because of its provisions barring farmers from saving and replanting seed. Another part of the contract that has been unpopular among farmers is the requirement that farmers grant Monsanto the right to come onto a farmer’s land to take plant samples any time during the first three years after a farmer has stopped using the company’s seed. Some of the provisions that have been added since 1996 state the following:
bullet All legal disputes (except those involving cotton) must be settled at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri or the Circuit Court of the County of St. Louis.
bullet Farmers must give Monsanto permission to access third-party records of the farmers’ activities, such as those held by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). The Center for Food Safety notes: “The breadth of this provision allows the company to obtain documents that are not necessarily directly related to a farmer’s seed or chemical purchase, permitting Monsanto to assess a grower’s financial state.”
bullet Farmers are not required to do anything to prevent contaminating neighbors’ fields with Monsanto’s genes. Recognizing that a “minimal amount of pollen movement (some of which can carry genetically improved traits) between neighboring fields is a well known and normal occurrence in corn seed or grain production,” the agreement suggests that farmers planting the company’s seeds are not under any obligation to prevent the contamination of neighboring non-transgenic crop fields. Conventional farmers “assume the responsibility and receive the benefit for ensuring that their crop meets… specifications for purity,” the agreement asserts.

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

After Percy Schmeiser and Monsanto fail to reach an out-of-court settlement, Monsanto takes the 69-year-old canola farmer to court. Monsanto claims that in 1998, Schmeiser planted 1,030 acres with seed from his 1997 canola crop containing a gene or cell that was protected by Monsanto’s 1993 (see February 23, 1993) patent on glyphosate-resistant plants and that he did so without permission from Monsanto. The company further alleges that in doing so Schmeiser illegally used, reproduced, and created genes, cells, plants, and seeds containing the patent-protected genes and cells. According to Monsanto, it is of no consequence how the gene arrived in Schmeiser’s field; his mere planting of the gene constitutes infringement. The company is suing for the $15 CAD/acre technology fee that other farmers using the seed are required to pay (A total of $15,450 CAD), the profits resulting from Schmeiser’s 1998 crop ($105,000 CAD, according to Monsanto), interest, exemplary damages ($25,000 CAD), and court costs. [Toronto Star, 6/3/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2000] Terry Zakreski, Schmeiser’s attorney, does not deny that the some of the canola plants in Schmeiser’s 1998 crop contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. However, he rejects Monsanto’s claim that Schmeiser infringed on the company’s patent when he planted the crop since the presence of Monsanto’s Roundup Resistance canola was not a result of any deliberate action on the part of Schmeiser. The defense suggests that Monsanto’s patented-gene arrived on Schmeiser’s property by way of pollination or wind-blown seed. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999]
Plaintiff Argument--Tests show high percentage of Roundup in sample taken from Schmeiser's 1997 crop - In spite of the fact that Monsanto’s argument does not hinge in anyway on how its Roundup Ready Canola came to grow on Schmeiser’s fields, it nonetheless attempts to make the case that the alleged high percentage of Roundup-resistant canola in Schmeiser’s 1997 crop was too high to have resulted solely from cross-pollination or wind-blown seed as Schmeiser claims. As evidence of this, Monsanto cites tests (see Fall 1997) (see January 24, 2000) performed on plant samples taken in August of that year by Wayne Derbyshire (see August 18, 1997). Those tests found that the samples contained a very high percentage (more than 90 percent) of seeds containing the patented genes. Monsanto also introduces as evidence, tests performed on seeds given to Monsanto by Humboldt Flour Mills (see Between April 24 and April 28, 1998), the company that had inoculated Schmeiser’s seeds prior to the 1998 planting season. Tests later performed on those seeds found that 95 to 98 percent of them contained Monsanto’s patented gene (see April 2000; (August 26, 1999)). [Toronto Star, 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Tests show high percentage of Roundup in Schmeiser's 1998 crop - Monsanto also presents evidence aimed at demonstrating that Schmeiser’s 1998 crop consisted almost entirely of plants containing Monsanto’s patented Roundup-resistant gene. As evidence, it cites tests performed on samples that were taken from Percy’s crop in the summer of 1998 (see August 12, 1998). The tests done by Aaron Mitchell of Monsanto on these samples indicated that between 92 and 97 percent of the seeds in the samples were resistant to Roundup (see January 1999). [Toronto Star, 6/6/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Schmeiser used Roundup on his 1998 crop - In an effort to prove that Schmeiser’s 1998 crop consisted mostly of Roundup Ready Canola and that Schmeiser sought to take advantage of its resistance to the herbicide, Monsanto cites the testimony of Wesley Niebrugge, a farmer and employee of the Esso bulk dealership in Bruno. Niebrugge claims that in 1997 and 1998 Schmeiser’s farm hand Carlyle Moritz told him that Schmeiser had sprayed his fields with Roundup after having seeded his fields with Roundup Ready Canola. Monsanto argues that in spite of Schmeiser’s claims that he did not use Roundup on his crops in 1998, there is no evidence that he used Muster and Assure herbicides as claimed. Furthermore, Monsanto provides evidence that Schmeiser purchased 720 liters of Roundup in 1998. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/17/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Roundup Ready Canola presence in Schmeiser's fields cannot be explained by windblown seed - Monsanto also argues that seed blown off the top of passing grain trucks could not have been responsible for the Roundup-resistant canola plants that Schmeiser found in his field more than 100 feet away from the road in 1997 (see Summer 1997). As evidence, Monsanto cites the testimony of Barry Hertz, a mechanical engineer hired by Monsanto because of his expertise in road vehicle aerodynamics. Hertz tells the court that according to his own calculations, canola seed blown off the top of a moving grain truck would fly no more than 8.8 meters from the road. His calculations are based on the weather conditions recorded at the Saskatoon airport in October and May of 1996, 100 kilometers away from Schmeiser’s farm. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/9/2000; Canadian Press, 6/9/2000]
Plaintiff Argument--Schmeiser segregated his crop - Monsanto argues that Schmeiser segregated his crop when he chose to save and plant the seeds harvested from the same field where he knew Roundup Ready plants had grown. The company’s lawyer questions why he would have done so if he considered those plants to be a contaminant on his land. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/15/2000]
Defense Argument--Schmeiser did not undertake any deliberate action to obtain Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola - According to Schmeiser, the presence of Monsanto’s patented gene in his crop was not a result of any deliberate action he took. Rather he suggests that his crop was likely contaminated with Monsanto’s genes from wind-blown pollen or seed.
bullet Zakreski notes that there is no evidence whatsoever that Schmeiser illegally obtained Roundup Ready Canola seed. Monsanto has never identified anyone who may have sold Roundup Ready Canola seed to Schmeiser, and Schmeiser has never admitted to having acquired the seed. Monsanto employee Aaron Mitchell candidly testifies to this fact on the stand. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/9/2000; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/13/2000]
bullet Percy Schmeiser’s field hand, Carlyle Moritz, testifies that swaths from a neighboring canola field planted with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola blew onto one of Schmeiser’s fields in 1996 (see Fall 1996). The swaths were subsequently picked up by a combine on Schmeiser’s fields and deposited in the grain bins on that field. The defense believes it is possible that some of the seed from that bin was used to plant Schmeiser’s 1997 crop. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 6 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser recalls that in 1997 (see Summer 1997), after spraying Roundup in his ditches and around telephone poles adjacent to his canola field, approximately 60 percent of the canola plants in that area survived. Curious about the possibility that his canola plants may have developed a resistance to Roundup, he sprayed a trial strip about 100 feet wide in one of the fields that is next to the road. The total area of the strip was a “good three acres,” he says. As a result of the spraying, roughly 40 percent of the canola plants died. The surviving 60 percent were scattered in clumps and were mostly concentrated near the road. He believes that the uneven presence of clumps that were thicker closest to the road and thinner towards the center of the field is evidence that plants had been sown from seed coming from the direction of the road, probably from seed blown off passing grain trucks in late 1996.
bullet Zakreski argues that Schmeiser’s plants may have been pollinated with pollen transported by wind or other means from a neighboring farm. He notes that Monsanto scientist Robert Horsch has acknowledged in court testimony that the company’s dominant Roundup-resistant gene would be present in any pollen from a Roundup Ready Canola plant and therefore could pollinate non-transgenic plants. Zakreski also cites the testimony of Monsanto witness Keith Downey that “one hungry bee” is capable of traveling a great distance. Even though Monsanto employee Aaron Mitchell testified that the closest field planted with Monsanto licensed Roundup Ready Canola seed was approximately five miles away, Zakreski notes that it is impossible to state for sure that someone was not illegally growing it closer. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/6/2000; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 28 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 16 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser’s neighbor Elmer Borstmeyer testifies that he grew Roundup Ready Canola under agreement for four years beginning in 1996 and that he drove his truck by four of Schmeiser’s fields after harvest. He recalls that on one or two of his trips, the tarp was loose, and he believes he lost a lot of canola seed. “The tarp acted like a cyclone,” he said. “I lost some seed. That’s for sure” (see Fall 1996). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 50 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser’s lawyer cites other cases where farmers’ fields have been contaminated with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola, including farmers Charles Boser (see Summer 1999) and Louis Gerwing (see Summer 1999). He also notes that just a few weeks before, Canadian canola seeds sold to Europe by Advanta Canada were discovered to have been contaminated with a small percentage of genetically modified (GM) seeds (see May 2000). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000]
bullet Zakreski also addresses the various tests that were conducted on samples taken from Schmeiser’s 1997 and 1998 crops. Monsanto had used some of the tests as evidence to argue that more than 90 percent of the plants in some of Schmeiser’s fields contained Monsanto’s patented gene. Of the samples that were taken by Wayne Derbyshire in 1997 (see August 18, 1997) and used as the basis for two grow-out tests (see Fall 1997) (see January 24, 2000), and of the samples that were taken by Don Todd and James Vancha in 1998 (see August 12, 1998) and used for a grow-out test performed by Aaron Mitchell (see January 1999), Zakreski argues that they were all (1) taken illegally, and should not be admitted by the court; (2) taken using a methodology that was not intended to be representative of the fields from which they were taken; and (3) were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file]
bullet Of the samples that were handled by Aaron Mitchell before being sent to and tested by Keith Downey on January 24, 2000 (see January 24, 2000), Zakreski questions (1) why so many seeds were apparently missing from the coin envelopes; and (2) why there were cleaver seeds, debris, and cracked seeds present in this sample—presumed to have been taken directly from canola pods. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 18 pdf file]
bullet Zakreski also challenges the authenticity of seeds used in a grow-out test that was performed by Aaron Mitchell in January 1999 (see January 1999). He asks how it came to be that seeds Mitchell brought to Leon Perehudoff were clean when in fact the seeds in the original sample contained debris. Though Mitchell claims to have cleaned the seeds by hand in a matter of an hour, plant biologist Lyle Friesen, another witness, testifies that such a task should have taken “days” to do by hand. Zakreski also notes that is unclear why the seeds Mitchell planted enjoyed a 100 percent germination rate when Friesen and experts at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis were able to get only about half their seeds—presumably taken the same day as Mitchell’s seeds—to grow. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 23-25 pdf file]
bullet Additionally, Zakreski questions the authenticity of the seed samples that Monsanto obtained from Humboldt Flour Mills (see Between April 24 and April 28, 1998). The seeds tested by Monsanto had apparently been cleaned, when in fact the seeds supplied to the mill by Schmeiser (see April 24, 1998) were bin-run seeds full of chaff. No evidence is provided by the plaintiff to explain how the seeds cleaned themselves. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 19 pdf file]
Defense Argument--One must use a patented invention for there to be infringement - Zakreski argues that for a patent infringement to occur, one must use the invention. His argument can be summarized as thus: (1) Monsanto has a patent on a gene, not a plant; (2) it is not a patent infringement to merely possess a patented invention, one must either use, or intend to use, the patented invention in order for there to be an infringement; (3) the act of growing a plant that contains the patented gene does not imply the use of that gene since that gene is not needed for the plant to grow; (4) the use of a patented invention necessarily entails that the “object,” or “essence,” of a patent be utilized, which in this case is a cell’s resistance to Roundup; (5) to use Monsanto’s invention, one must therefore either use, or intend to use, Roundup on one’s crop; and (6) because Schmeiser did not use Roundup on his crop, he did not infringe on Monsanto’s patent. The evidence Zakreski provides to support this argument can be summarized as follows: (a) there was no motive for Schmeiser to acquire and use Monsanto’s patented technology; (b) Schmeiser did not attempt to segregate seed known to be Roundup-resistant from the rest of his seed and therefore had no intention of using the properties of Monsanto’s patented gene; and (c) Schmeiser’s 1998 crop was a mixture of Roundup-resistant and non-resistant canola plants and therefore Schmeiser derived no benefit from Monsanto’s technology; and (d) Schmeiser did not, in fact, use Roundup on his 1998 crop.
a -
bullet Using Roundup Ready Canola would have made it impossible for Schmeiser to grow canola back-to-back, his preferred method of growing canola (see 1994-1998). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2-3 pdf file]
bullet The only benefit of using Roundup Ready Canola is that it allows one to spray Roundup herbicide on one’s crop. Roundup can only be applied after the weeds have germinated and there is weed foliage to spray. Schmeiser prefers not to spray weeds in his crop at this late stage because it would allow the weeds to use much of the soil’s moisture that would otherwise be available to the crop. Instead, he uses products that can be incorporated into the soil, or that kill weeds as they germinate (see 1994-1998). Furthermore, Schmeiser notes that Roundup is thought to leave a residue in the soil that kills mycorrhiza, a beneficial fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients in the soil. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 3 pdf file]
bullet Schmeiser prefers to save his seeds rather then buy new seeds each year, which he considers to be an unnecessary expense. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2 pdf file]
bullet There was nothing wrong with Schmeiser’s seed stock that would have warranted interest in acquiring new seed. Schmeiser’s crops have performed much better than others in the area and are relatively free of common diseases that affect canola. Schmeiser has never had to file an insurance claim for his crop and because of this he receives a discount on his crop insurance premium. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 2 pdf file]
b -
bullet Zakreski notes that in 1997, Schmeiser made no attempt to segregate the Roundup-resistant plants from the non-resistant plants in his fields. His farmhand, Carlyle Moritz, saved the seed from both the area where Roundup-resistant crop was known to have grown and other areas where these plants were not known to have grown (see Fall 1997). In spring 1998, these seeds were combined with bin-run seeds from previous years to sow Schmeiser’s canola crop (see Spring 1998). [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 11 pdf file]
c -
bullet Schmeiser’s attorney argues that Schmeiser had nothing to gain in planting a mixed crop of Roundup-resistant and non-resistant canola plants. “The advantage in growing Roundup Ready Canola is that a grower may spray in-crop with Roundup and achieve broad spectrum weed control. If a grower plants a crop which is a mixture of Roundup Ready and Roundup susceptible canola, he cannot spray in-crop with Roundup. To do so would be suicide.” [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 28-29 pdf file]
d -
bullet Schmeiser says that in 1998 the herbicides he used on his crops were the brand-names Muster and Assure. It would have made no sense, Zakreski argues, for Schmeiser to have knowingly planted Roundup Ready Canola. “It would make no sense if he knowingly proceeded to seed Roundup Ready Canola and not use Roundup,” notes Zakreski. [Leader Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), 6/13/2000] Schmeiser, however, as noted by the plaintiff, was unable to produce receipts showing he had used Muster and Assure on his canola. He explains that the Esso bulk dealership where he lives changed hands after 1998 and the new owners were unable to locate the receipts. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/15/2000]
bullet Weed ecology expert Rene Van Acker testifies that the test results from Manitoba (which identified the presence of non-resistant canola plants in a sample taken from Schmeiser’s fields) (see (August 26, 1999)) prove that Schmeiser did not spray his fields with Roundup. If he had sprayed his fields, he would have killed much of his crop. “It would make no sense for a producer to sow Roundup Ready Canola and not use Roundup,” Van Acker recently wrote in a report requested by the defense. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/17/2000]
bullet While Schmeiser did purchase 720 liters of Roundup in 1998, as noted by the plaintiff, Schmeiser says that he used this quantity of Roundup to clear his fields before spring planting and also to clear the weeds in the roadside ditches and around telephone poles. Schmeiser testifies that he would have used 515 liters of the herbicide to chem fallow his 1,030 acres leaving 205 liters for the ditches and right-of-ways. Zakreski’s final brief includes a table depicting Schmeiser’s use of the chemical in 1996, 1997, and 1998, demonstrating that the amount of Roundup used in 1998 was entirely consistent with the previous two years. Additionally, Schmeiser explains that if he had planted 100 percent Roundup Ready Canola that year, following Monsanto’s recommended application rate of 1 liter/acre, he would have needed an additional 1,000 liters, a claim that not one of Monsanto’s witnesses attempts to challenge. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 13 pdf file]
Defense Argument--Monsanto's patent does not confer property rights - Another argument advanced by Schmeiser’s attorney is that because Monsanto’s patent does not confer ownership rights of the gene to the company, only intellectual property rights, the insertion of that gene into someone’s plant cannot possibly make that plant property of Monsanto. If the pollen produced by a Roundup Ready Canola plant fertilizes a non-transgenic plant owned by another farmer, Monsanto can claim no property rights to the plant’s offspring. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
bullet In support of this argument, Zakreski cites the similarity of this case to “stray bulls” cases in which the owners of cows impregnated by stray bulls owned by someone else have successfully sued for damages on the basis that early breading stunted the growth of their cows. In no such cases, notes Zakreski, has an owner of a stray bull attempted to claim any rights to the stray bull’s offspring. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
bullet Zakreski also states that the law of admixture applies to this case. The premise of that law is as follows: “… where a man willfully causes or allows property of another to inter-mix with his own without the other’s knowledge or consent, the whole belongs to the latter…”. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 38-39 pdf file]
Defense Argument--Monsanto waved its patent rights when it released its invention unconfined into the environment - The defense also argues that Monsanto waived the patent rights on its invention when it failed to control the spread of its invention after it was released into the environment unconfined. The lawyer writes: “Had [Monsanto] maintained control over its invention, it may have maintained its exclusive rights. However, inventions do not usually spread themselves around. They do not normally replicate and invade the property and lands of others. Ever since regulatory approval for this invention was given, it has been released unconfined into the environment. Mr. Schmeiser has produced ample evidence of just how extensive the release is in the Rural Municipality of Bayne, where he farms. Any exclusive rights Monsanto may have had to its invention were lost when it lost control over the spread of its invention. Surely, the exclusive right to possess such an invention cannot be maintained if the spread of the invention cannot be controlled. The unconfined and uncontrolled release into the environment is an act by Monsanto completely inconsistent with its exclusive rights. It cannot on the one hand unleash self-propagating matter uncontrolled into the environment and then claim exclusively wherever it invades. It can, by this, be taken by its conduct to have waived its statutory rights.” Zakreski warns that giving Monsanto property rights to any and all genes or plants that result from the uncontrolled replication of its invention could potentially cause all Canadian canola farmers to lose their right to save and replant seed. “It can never be said with certainty that Monsanto’s gene will not soon be present on any canola field in western Canada. Accordingly, no farmer who saves and re-uses his seeds can be sure the Monsanto gene is not present in his seed supply.” Zakreski suggests: “Perhaps this is a benefit that Monsanto hoped to achieve by releasing their product into the environment without any control.” [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 39-41 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/22/2000] As evidence that Monsanto failed to control the spread of its invention, Schmeiser spends several hours showing the courtroom pictures he took in the vicinity where he lives of volunteer Roundup-resistant canola plants growing in ditches, flower beds, cemeteries, and roadways. He explains how he sprayed the plants with Roundup and then returned to see if they had survived. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000]
Defense Argument--Monsanto's patent is invalid; Monsanto's intellectual rights are protected under the Plant Breeders' Rights Act - Zakreski argues that a gene is “not the proper subject matter for a patent” and therefore the patent “should be declared invalid.” In support of this claim, he cites a federal appeals court’s 1998 decision in the case Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents). In that case, the judges ruled that “A complex life form does not fit within the current parameters of the Patent Act… .” Zakreski further argues that there already is legislation—the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act—that protects the intellectual property rights of those who develop new plant varieties. He notes that unlike the Patent Act, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act explicitly preserves farmers’ rights to save and re-plant their seed. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Rene Van Acker

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser later claims that Morris Hofmann, the Humboldt Flour Mills employee who retrieved a sample of Schmeiser’s 1998 seed for Monsanto (see Between April 24 and April 28, 1998), admits he lied in court. “He apologized to me for lying about supplying Monsanto with a sample of clean Roundup Ready Canola seed for use in court. He told me that Monsanto had taken him on trips, to lunch and given him free products to use on his farm.” [Crop Choice, 5/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Morris Hofmann, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

As a result of pressure from civil society organizations and the public, Rizal Ramli, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for the economy, postpones the signing of an agreement between Indonesia and Monsanto on the planting of 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of genetically modified (GM) cotton seed in the province of South Sulawesi. The following day, Sonny Keraf, minister of environment, says an environmental impact assessment will be needed before any of Monsanto’s GM seed is distributed. [Asia Times, 1/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Rizal Ramli, Sonny Keraf, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist, and his assistant, David Quist, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, discover the presence of genetically modified (GM) genes in native Mexican maize growing in the remote hills of Oaxaca, Mexico. The contaminant genes contain DNA sequences from the cauliflower mosaic virus, which is often used as a promoter to “switch on” insecticidal or herbicidal properties in GM plants. Contamination is also found in samples from a government food store that purchases animal feed from the US. The Oaxaca region is considered to be the birthplace of maize and the world’s center of diversity for corn, “exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that environmentalists and many scientists had hoped to protect from contamination,” the New York Times reports. Scientists worry that the genes could spread through the region’s corn population reducing its genetic diversity. Critics of genetically modified crops have long argued that the technology cannot be contained. According to Dr. Norman C. Ellstrand, evolutionary biologist at University of California at Riverside, the discovery “shows in today’s modern world how rapidly genetic material can move from one place to another.” The findings are not good news for the biotech industry which is currently lobbying Brazil, the European Union, and Mexico to lift their embargoes on genetically modified crops. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Manchester Guardian Weekly, 12/12/2001; BBC, 3/13/2002] It is later learned that the contamination resulted from Oaxacan peasants planting kernels they purchased from a local feed store. Though there’s a moratorium on the growing of GM crops, there’s no such ban on animal feed containing GM seed. [Cox News, 10/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Bivings Group, Monsanto, David Quist, Ignacio Chapela, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Bungaran Saragih, Indonesia’s minister of agriculture, grants Monsanto limited approval to grow its Bollgard Bt cotton in the province of South Sulawesi, even though an environmental impact assessment ordered in September (see September 2000) has not been completed. He says the cotton will be grown in an experimental project. According to SEC documents, this approval was obtained through the efforts of a Monsanto manager and one of its representative entities, possibly PT Harvest International Indonesia, in Jakarta. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Bungaran Saragih, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Forty tons of Monsanto’s Bt cotton seed arrives in Makassar, the capital city of the Indonesian province South Sulawesi. Local authorities apparently try to keep news of the shipment under wraps. According to the Jakarta Post, “The provincial plantation office denied reports of the seed’s arrival on Thursday morning, but at approximately 1 pm on Thursday, the Jakarta Post noticed a Russian Ilyusin transport plane, with body number IL-76T, unloading the seed in the airport’s military area. The wide-bodied plane, chartered by Norse Air Charter from Johannesburg, was tightly guarded, and reporters and photographers were barred from approaching the plane.” Four Monsanto officials eventually meet with the press and say the seeds have been imported to meet the needs of Indonesian farmers. “There are at least 400,000 hectares of cotton plantations to be developed by the farmers here,” one of the executives says. Activists try unsuccessfully to block the convoy of trucks as they leave the airport. [Jakarta Post, 3/17/2001] The trucks, under armed guard and marked “rice delivery,” deliver the cotton seeds to farms in seven different districts in South Sulawesi. [Asia Times, 1/20/2005] The seeds will be grown as part of an experiment aimed at assessing the crop’s performance so a decision can be made on whether the seeds should be grown commercially. [Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian Federal Judge Andrew MacKay rules in favor of Monsanto in its case against Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
Judge MacKay decides the following: -
bullet That all test results submitted to the court as evidence by Monsanto was admissible and worthy of consideration by the court. The test results had indicated that a high percentage (in most cases, more than 90 percent) of the seed present in several samples presumably taken from Schmeiser’s canola fields contained Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready gene. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) that the samples had been taken illegally and were invalid because they were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. Schmeiser’s lawyer also raised questions about the authenticity of the samples noting multiple contradictions in the observed properties of the samples as they changed possession from one person to another. The judge dismissed all of these concerns insisting that certain “conclusions of fact” could nonetheless be “drawn from evidence of the various tests.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 34 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
bullet That based on expert testimony and results from the tests on samples taken from Schmeiser’s property, “none of the suggested possible sources of contamination of Schmeiser’s crop was the basis for the substantial level of Roundup Ready canola growing in field number 2 in 1997.” (“Field number 2” is the field where Schmeiser discovered the presence of Roundup Canola in 1997 (see Summer 1997)) [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51 pdf file]
bullet That “the source of the Roundup-resistant canola in the defendants’ 1997 crop is really not significant for the resolution of the issue of infringement which relates to the 1998 crop.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51 pdf file]
bullet That Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted seed that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patented gene. Judge MacKay disagrees with the defense’s argument that in order to have used the essence of Monsanto’s patent, Schmeiser would have had to have applied Roundup to his crop. According to MacKay, the acts of replanting and selling the seed in and of themselves constituted use of the patent’s essence. “Growth of the seed, reproducing the patented gene and cell, and sale of the harvested crop constitutes taking the essence of the plaintiffs’ invention, using it, without permission.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 51-53 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001]
bullet That the law of admixture and the precedent set by “stray bull” cases do not apply to this case. What distinguishes this case from cases where admixture is relevant, says MacKay, is that “Monsanto does have ownership in its patented gene and cell and pursuant to the [Patent] Act has the exclusive use of its invention.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 55-56 pdf file]
bullet That Monsanto’s patent is valid. MacKay rejects Zakreski’s argument that the Harvard Mouse case relates to this case in the way he described. Rather according to MacKay, while that case concerned the patent on an organism, this case concerns a gene, the process for its insertion, and the cell derived from that process. As such, the Harvard Mouse case “implicitly support[s] the grant of the patent to Monsanto.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40 pdf file]
bullet That Monsanto’s patent rights on its Roundup-resistant gene persist even after it has inserted itself into a plant owned by someone else. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) that Monsanto’s patent confers only intellectual property rights, not actual property ownership rights, of the gene to the company and that therefore the insertion of Monsanto’s patented gene into a plant owned by someone else does not make that plant or its offspring property of Monsanto. While Judge MacKay agrees with the defense that the property ownership rights over a plant would not change in such a case, MacKay says that the interest of the person who owns that plant would nonetheless be subject to Monsanto’s patent rights. “Thus,” writes Judge MacKay, “a farmer whose field contains seed or plants originating from seed spilled into them, or blown as seed, in swaths from a neighbor’s land or even growing from germination by pollen carried into his field from elsewhere by insects, birds, or by the wind, may own the seed or plants on his land even if he did not set about to plant them. He does not, however, own the right to the use of the patented gene, or of the seed or plant containing the patented gene or cell.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40-41 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 3/30/2001; Natural Life, 5/2001]
bullet That Monsanto did not implicitly waive its patent rights on the Roundup Ready gene because of any alleged failure to control the spread of its gene, as the defendant argued (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000). According to Judge MacKay, Monsanto has taken adequate steps to control the spread of its product. He cites Monsanto’s efforts to limit the use of the invention to only those plots of land farmed by licensed farmers for which the technology use fee has been paid; the company’s efforts to enforce the terms of its Technology Use Agreement; and the company’s efforts to remove plants that have invaded the properties of other farmers. MacKay makes little of the several photographs that Schmeiser had taken of Roundup-resistant Canola volunteers that he discovered scattered though out his community. [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 40-44 pdf file]
bullet To issue an injunction barring Schmeiser from planting “any seed saved from plants which are known or ought to be known to be Roundup tolerant, and from selling or otherwise depriving the plaintiffs of their exclusive right to use plants which the defendants know or ought to know are Roundup tolerant, or using the seeds from such plants.” [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 55 pdf file]
bullet That Schmeiser’s unauthorized use of Monsanto’s patented gene entitles the company to the profit realized by Schmeiser as a result of the sale of his 1998 crop, plus interest. However Judge MacKay believes that Monsanto has overstated Schmeiser’s profit because it did not factor in his labor as an expense. MacKay also disagrees with the plaintiff that exemplary damages are warranted in this case. MacKay gives Schmeiser and Monsanto three weeks to agree on the value of Schmeiser’s 1998 profit. If they cannot come to an agreement by then, Schmeiser is to pay Monsanto the sum of $15,450 CAD, or $15 CAD/acre planted and harvested in 1998. [Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 56-60 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Andrew MacKay

Timeline Tags: Seeds

(Show related quotes)

Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton fares poorly during a one-year trial period in South Sulawesi, a province of Indonesia. During a drought, much of the crop suffers from a population explosion in cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), though the pest has no effect on local varieties. Other pests also attack the crop. As a result, farmers are forced to purchase additional pesticides and use them in larger amounts than is usually necessary. Monsanto had said its Bt cotton would require less pesticide. It also claimed its product would produce yields as high as 3 tons per hectare, and even promised some farmers they would see 4-7 tons per hectare. But the average yield turns out to be only 1.1 ton per hectare with 74 percent of the total area planted actually producing less than one ton per hectare. Approximately 522 hectares experience complete failure. As a result of the poor harvest, 70 percent of the 4,438 farmers participating in the experiment are unable to repay the loans they obtained to buy the seed. They had purchased the cotton seed on credit for Rp 40,000/kg from Branita Sandhini, a Monsanto subsidiary, as part of a package deal that also included pesticide, herbicide (including Roundup), and fertilizer. By comparison, Kanesia, a non-transgenic cotton that is grown by other farmers in the area costs only Rp 5,000/kg. Not only does the farmers’ purchase agreement with Branita Sandhini require that they pay these high prices, it also prohibits them from saving and replanting harvested seed. After harvest, they rely on the same company to purchase their crop. However, before buying the harvest, Branita Sandhini asks the farmers to sign a new contract for the following year. In the new contract, the seed prices are double the previous year’s. Fearing that the company will refuse to buy their harvest if they do not sign, many indebted farmers reluctantly agree to the new terms. Others burn their fields in protest. One woman recalls, “The company didn’t give the farmer any choice, they never intended to improve our well being, they just put us in a debt circle, took away our independence and made us their slave forever. They try to monopolize everything, the seeds, the fertilizer, the marketing channel and even our life.” [Jakarta Post, 6/1/2002; Nation (Jakarta), 9/27/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 1/26/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Branita Sandhini, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser is ordered to pay $19,832 CAD in damages to Monsanto for having planted and harvested canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. Several weeks earlier, a Canadian federal court ruled that Monsanto was entitled to the profits plus interest from Schmeiser’s 1998 canola crop (see March 29, 2001). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Don Carlson, president of the Humboldt and District Marketing Club, contends in an op-ed piece published by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that herbicide-tolerant crops, such as Roundup Ready Canola, have resulted in numerous benefits for farmers. He says these benefits include “reduced tillage, earlier seeding, lower fuel and chemical costs, less erosion and less salinity.” He says he and others felt compelled to write the op-ed in response to all the negative information about GM crops, which they blame on Monsanto’s lawsuit against farmer Percy Schmeiser. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Don Carlson

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto files a lawsuit against Saskatchewan farmer Kelly Ryczak who it says illegally grew and sold the company’s patented Roundup Ready Canola seeds in 1999, 2000, and 2001. The company claims he “improperly obtained glyphosate-resistant canola seeds” from his father, Metro Ryczak, or another licensed farmer. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/19/2001] The lawsuit is settled in April 2002 with a settlement agreement requiring Ryczak to pay Monsanto an undisclosed sum of money over a period of several years. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kelly Ryczak

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Investigators with Robinson Security visit canola fields farmed by Carlyle Moritz to look for evidence that he is illegally growing Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready Canola. They reportedly take samples from canola plants growing in a nearby right-of-way. Moritz, who works for Percy Schmeiser, rents the land from his mother. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Carlyle Moritz

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto says there are additional farmers, fewer than 100, who it believes are infringing on the patent they have for Roundup-resistant plants. “Whether or not those will go forward [to court] or not time will tell,” Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan says. “Our preference is to settle these things out of court, but that doesn’t always happen.” [Canadian Press, 7/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Trish Jordan, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reports that Monsanto’s legal costs for suing Percy Schmeiser amount to $726,768.10 CAD. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/24/2001] Reportedly, of that amount, $30,000 CAD was paid to Dr. Keith Downey, one of the scientists who testified against Schmeiser. [Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002] Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, tells the newspaper that he believes Monsanto will attempt to seek about $220,000 CAD of that amount. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Keith Downey

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser tours Africa warning farmers not to grow GM crops and sharing with them his story about being sued by biotech giant Monsanto. According to Schmeiser, representatives of the company follow him to almost every meeting, sometimes several in a single day. At one meeting, a Monsanto representative demands that he be given equal time to speak. But the organizers of the meeting, according to Schmeiser, tell him, “Get lost! If you want to speak to a meeting, call your own.” [Alive, 2/2002; Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002] At one point during his trip, while in South Africa, Schmeiser talks to a group of large landowners. The next day, about 30 of them declare a non-GMO zone and cancel their orders for Monsanto’s GM soya. Schmeiser later recalls, “That got Monsanto against me.” Later, Schmeiser runs into Wally Green of Monsanto in Johannesburg after the two spoke to Parliament. Green was not happy. According to Schmeiser, Green tells him, “Nobody stands up to Monsanto. We are going to get you and destroy you. When you get back to Canada, we’ll get you.” [Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Wally Green, Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Berkeley grad student David Quist and Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist, publish the results of a study (see October 2000) finding that native Mexican maize has been contaminated with genetically modified genes. The study—published by the British journal Nature after an eight-month long peer-review process—presents two arguments. In addition to reporting the discovery that some of Oaxaca’s maize contains transgenic material, the paper says they found transgene fragments scattered throughout the plants’ modified DNA. [Quist and Chapela, 11/29/2001 pdf file] The study’s second conclusion causes a controversy because it contradicts the assertions of the biotech industry that genetic engineering is a safe and exact science, and that the technology is capable of controlling precisely where the modified sequences are positioned, how they will be expressed, and whether or not they will be passed on to successive generations. One of the main arguments of the technology’s detractors is that the methods used to insert trangenic genes into an organism’s DNA cannot be done with accuracy and therefore are liable to produce unpredictable and undesirable effects. Following the publication of Quist and Chapela’s article, other Berkeley biologists—who work in a Berkeley University program partially funded by Syngenta, a major biotech firm—criticize the study, leading Quist and Chapela to acknowledge that the analyses of two of the eight gene sequences in their paper were flawed. However they stand by their conclusions that the remaining six sequences contained scattered modified gene sequences. Critics of the article also note that both Quist and Chapela strongly oppose the genetic engineering of crops and participated in an unsuccessful effort to block the Berkeley-Syngenta partnership. The issue soon grows into a very large controversy that some suggest is fueled by the efforts of the biotech industry, and in particular, the Bivings Group, a PR firm on Monsanto’s payroll. Forum postings at AgBioWorld.org are reportedly traced to a Bivings’ employee. It is also noted that another person posting on the forum makes “frequent reference to the Center for Food and Agricultural Research, an entity that appears to exist only online and whose domain is [allegedly] registered to a Bivings employee.” Bivings denies that it is in any way connected to the forum postings. In spite of the controversy surrounding the article’s second finding, the other conclusion, that Mexico’s maize has been contaminated, is largely uncontested, and is buttressed by at least three other studies (see January 2002; February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003). [Associated Press, 4/4/2002; East Bay Express, 5/29/2002; BBC, 6/2/2002; Mother Jones, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Bivings Group, David Quist, Ignacio Chapela, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Upset about the Indonesian government’s decree (see January 2003-August 2003) to require an environmental impact assessment prior to the cultivation of Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton in the province of South Sulawesi, Monsanto steps up its lobbying. Representatives of the company reportedly meet with a senior environment ministry official on several occasions. But after it becomes apparent that its lobbying efforts are having little effect, it resorts to bribery. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; US Department of Justice, 1/6/2005] In February 2002, a US-based Monsanto senior manager, instructs the company’s lobbyist, PT Harvest International Indonesia, to “incentivize” the senior environment official who had ordered the environmental impact study. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005] Some time later, an employee of the consulting firm visits the senior Indonesian official and hands him an envelope containing $50,000 in $100 bills. The official accepts the money but says he can’t guarantee that he will be able to get the decree repealed. The senior Monsanto manager instructs the consultant to disguise the bribe as “consulting fees” in his invoice to Monsanto. The firm also includes in its invoice the additional income taxes it will owe because of the phony fees, bringing the invoice’s total to $66,000. [US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005] Harvest’s president-director, Harvey Goldstein, a US citizen, will later deny that his company was involved in any bribery. “Harvest has never been involved in corruption whatsoever,” he will tell reporters. [Jakarta Post, 1/14/2001] The identity of the Monsanto manager is never revealed. According to the US Justice Department, that person oversees certain activities in the Asia-Pacific region. [Associated Press, 1/6/2001] Despite Monsanto’s $50,000 bribe, the senior official never reverses the requirement for the environmental impact assessment. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Harvest International Indonesia, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Two farmers from Saskatchewan, Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin, file a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Aventis alleging that the two companies’ genetically modified (GM) canola genes have infested their organic canola crops. The contamination has made it impossible for them to get their products certified as organic and as a result they are not able to sell it on the organic market. Arnold Taylor, president of Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD), tells the Canadian Press that “it is almost impossible to buy uncontaminated seed let alone contend with contamination from pollen drift.” According to Marc Loiselle, a director with the same organization, organic grain and oilseed traders have zero tolerance for GM contamination. Representing the farmers is Terry Zakreski, the same lawyer who represents Percy Schmeiser. The suit is also seeking to stop the introduction of modified wheat, which the two companies are developing and which is expected to hit the market in a few years. “We have lost canola as a crop in our rotations because of genetic contamination, but we obviously cannot afford to lose wheat which is our largest crop and largest market,” Arnold Taylor says. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 10/12/2001; Canadian Press, 1/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Aventis, Larry Hoffman, Dale Beaudoin

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launch an investigation into allegations that Monsanto representatives paid bribes to Indonesian officials in an effort to advance its business interests there. The Justice Department and SEC were reportedly informed of the suspected bribery by Monsanto itself, which says it launched its own investigation after noticing irregularities in the accounting of its Jakarta-based subsidiary. [Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2004] The investigation lasts about three years. On January 6, 2005, the Justice Department and the SEC announce that Monsanto has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to the Justice Department, which has charged the company with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company is also ordered to pay $500,000 to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As part of the settlement, Monsanto will allow an “independent compliance expert” to audit and monitor the company and to ensure there are no further breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company says it accepts full responsibility and has taken action against those involved. “We accept full responsibility for the improper activities that occurred in connection with our Indonesian affiliates,” says Lori Fisher, one of the company’s spokespersons. “Such behavior is not condoned nor accepted at Monsanto, and the people involved are no longer employed by Monsanto.” [Associated Press, 1/6/2001; Reuters, 1/7/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005; Sunday Herald, 1/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Federal Court of Canada Justice Andrew MacKay orders Percy Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $153,000 CAD in order to compensate the company for a portion of its legal costs. Monsanto sued Schmeiser in 2000 (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) for illegally planting and harvesting canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. This sum of money is in addition to the $19,832 CAD that Schmeiser has already been ordered to pay the company (see May 23, 2001). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Terry Zakreski

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Percy Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, in his argument before the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals, cites 17 grounds for the appeal of Judge MacKay’s March 2001 decision (see March 29, 2001) against Schmeiser. The judge had ruled that Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted canola seed in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” was resistant to Roundup. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/16/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002] Monsanto lawyer Roger Hughes is also present for a cross-appeal to contest MacKay’s decision to award the company only $19,832 CAD—the figure MacKay determined was Schmeiser’s profit from the sale of his 1998 crop. According to Monsanto’s calculations, Schmeiser’s profits were $105,935 CAD, or 74 percent of his $142,625 CAD gross. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002]
Zakreski's Grounds for Appeal - Some of the issues that Zakreski contends MacKay made erroneous judgments about include the following (As summarized in the 12/31/2001 Court of Appeals Submission):
bullet Interpreting the Patent Act and the Patent so as to deprive farmers the ownership of canola plants and seeds containing the patented gene. Zakreski says that MacKay was wrong to conclude that the Patent Act gives Monsanto “ownership in its patented gene and cell” because the act only grants it the right to make, construct, and use the patented gene and sell it to others to be used. It does not grant ownership. Zakreski argues that according to common law, ownership rights come from possession and control of, or intent to control, a property; and Schmeiser had both possession and control. Zakreski says MacKay’s decision permits Monsanto “to invade the common law property rights of [a farmer] in order to assert its patent rights” merely because its “patented gene happens to be in a seed or plant belonging to a farmer.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 12-14 pdf file]
bullet Interpreting the Patent Act and the Patent so as to deprive farmers of there vested right to being able to save and re-use their own canola seed that may contain the patented gene. Zakreski says that the implication of MacKay’s interpretation “is that no farmer who becomes aware, or ought to be aware, that his canola contains the gene patented by [Monsanto] will have the right to save and reuse his canola seed.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 13 pdf file]
bullet Finding that it is not necessary that a farmer take advantage of the patented gene by in-crop spraying with a glyphosate based herbicide such as Roundup in order to infringe the Patent. Zakreski says that MacKay was wrong to conclude that Schmeiser had used the patent by merely growing plants containing Monsanto’s gene. He argues that the utility of the patented gene can only be exploited when the crop is sprayed with Roundup, which Schmeiser did not do. The gene, notes Zakreski, is not used at any other time and is certainly not used when the plant is merely growing because the patented gene does not help the plant grow in any way. He cites a case in British Admiralty law, where a sea captain was accused of patent infringement because he had a patent-protected pump aboard his ship. The court found there was no infringement because the pump was not used . [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001; Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 21-28 pdf file]
bullet Determining that the Respondents had not waived their patent rights by the “unconfined release” of their invention. Zakreski says that while MacKay apparently did not disagree that the “unconfined release” of an invention can result in the waiver of a patentholder’s rights, the judge believed that Monsanto took adequate steps to control the spread of its patented gene. Zakreski says this is not true. He says that several of the steps undertaken by Monsanto cited by MacKay were responses prompted by the fact that the gene had already spread. Thus Monsanto’s actions are evidence that Monsanto had “already lost control of their own product.” Zakreski also notes that where Monsanto had an opportunity to reduce the risk of gene drift, it chose not to. For example, (1) Monsanto’s Technology Use Agreement “places no restrictions on growers aimed at reducing (much less preventing) the escape of genetically modified canola,” does not require seed segregation, does not require a buffer zone, and did not require methods of transport that would have prevented seed loss; and (2) at Monsanto’s informational meetings, which all new Roundup Ready Canola growers are required to attend, farmers were not warned about cross-pollination, not instructed to maintain a buffer strip, not told to warn neighbors who grow non-transgenic canola, not told to segregate seed, and not told to prevent seed loss during transport. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001; Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 29-35 pdf file]
bullet Finding that there was “no evidence” that the canola seed used by the appellants to see the 1997 canola crop, included genetically modified seed and pollen carried into field #6 from a neighbor’s field. Zakreski says that this statement is false because it ignores Schmeiser’s testimony that his 1997 canola crop “came from field number 1 and field number 6.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 35-37 pdf file]
bullet Giving undue weight and significance to the internal sampling and testing done by the Respondents. As he did in his original closing argument, Zakreski argues that the test results were invalid because the samples were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. He also notes that there were multiple contradictions in the observed properties of the samples as they changed possession from one person to another, suggesting that the seed that was ultimately tested may not have actually been seed from Schmeiser’s farm. [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 37-41 pdf file]
bullet Determining that the Respondents were entitled to the profits made by Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. for its entire 1998 canola crop. Zakreski notes that (1) Monsanto’s patent grants it exclusive rights to sell its invention “to others to be used”; and (2) that Schmeiser sold his canola crop “to a grain elevator to be sent to a commercial crushing plant to make the canola seed into canola oil.” Thus, “the presence or absence of Monsanto’s patented gene added no value whatsoever to the canola seed which was, clearly, the Appellants’ property.” The judge’s ruling to award 100 percent of Schmeiser’s profit to Monsanto was erroneous, Zakreski argues, since Schmeiser “realized no profit or advantage from the presence of the patented gene.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 43 pdf file]
bullet Issuing an injunction that would impair the Appellants from engaging in the traditional farming practice of saving and re-using canola seed during the term of the Patent. Zakreski says that the injunction would make it illegal for Schmeiser to farm because unwanted Roundup Ready Canola volunteers continue to grow in his fields (see Spring 1999), even though he planted his fields in 1999 with entirely new seed (see Summer 1999). [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 44 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

A Canadian Federal Appeals Court upholds Judge Andrew MacKay’s 2001 ruling that Percy Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto’s patent for Roundup Ready Canola when he planted seed in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” was resistant to Roundup. The three-judge panel dismisses 16 of Schmeiser’s 17 grounds of appeal in the case. The one point they accept is that MacKay erred when he stated that there was “no evidence” that the canola seed Schmeiser used in his 1997 canola crop included genetically modified seed and pollen carried into field #6 from a neighbor’s field. However this judgment is inconsequential since the judges agree with MacKay that the question of how Monsanto’s gene came to be present in Schmeiser’s 1998 crop is not relevant to the issue of infringement. The court also concurs with MacKay that Schmeiser infringed on the patent even though he did not use Roundup on his 1998 crop. The judges agree that the mere presence of the gene in Schmeiser’s crop was in and of itself an infringement. Additionally, they uphold MacKay’s decision to admit and consider test results indicating the presence of Monsanto’s patented gene in samples taken from Schmeiser’s 1997 and 1998 crop. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued that the results were invalid because the samples were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. He had also raised several questions that challenged the authenticity of the samples. Finally, the judges say in their decision that the amount awarded to Monsanto by MacKay was an accurate accounting of Schmeiser’s profit from the sale of his 1998 crop, rejecting Monsanto’s bid to increase the award to $105,935 CAD. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 9/4/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 9/6/2002] Upon learning of the appellate court’s decision, Percy Schmeiser says he will try to have his case heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. [Canadian Press, 9/6/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 9/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Farmers in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi stop growing Monsanto Bollgard Bt cotton. Many farmers had grown the crop in 2001 and 2002 as part of an experiment (see (April 2001-October 2001)), which, for many, produced disastrous results. In December 2003, the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture will announce that Monsanto has decided to pull out of South Sulawesi. [Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canada’s Supreme Court agrees to hear Percy Schmeiser’s appeal of a 2002 appellate court decision (see September 6, 2002) that he infringed on Monsanto’s rights as a patentholder when he planted and harvested canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained the company’s Roundup-resistant gene. [Canadian Press, 5/8/2003; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

St. Louis Federal District Judge Rodney W. Sippel allows an antitrust case against Monsanto Company, Bayer, Syngenta, and Pioneer seed companies to proceed. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in 1999 (see March 15, 2001), documents show that the companies conspired during the late 1990s to fix prices and control the seed market. The second part of the lawsuit—which blames the companies for the huge losses suffered by farmers because of global opposition to genetically modified crops—is dismissed. [New York Times, 9/24/2003] Judge Sippel was once listed as one of three lawyers defending Monsanto in a similar case. [Guardian, 1/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Rodney W. Sippel, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer

Timeline Tags: Seeds

St. Louis Federal District Judge Rodney W. Sippel denies class-action status to an antitrust case against Monsanto and other companies (see December 14, 1999) . The suit alleges that the companies conspired to fix prices and control the seed market. [AXcess News, 3/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Rodney W. Sippel

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Canada’s Supreme Court hears the case of Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto. Schmeiser is appealing a lower court’s decision that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted canola seed in 1998 that he “knew, or ought to have known” was from glyphosate-resistant plants. Intervening on Schmeiser’s behalf are a consortium of six non-government organizations (Council of Canadians; Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration; Sierra Club; National Farmers Union; Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology; and the International Center for Technology Assessment) and the Ontario attorney general. The Ontario government is backing Schmeiser because it fears that a decision upholding the lower court’s ruling would encourage more gene patents and increase healthcare costs. Monsanto’s lawyers also presenting arguments before the court. In addition to defending the lower courts’ ruling that Schmeiser infringed on the company’s patent, the lawyers are cross-appealing the decision that the farmer’s profits in 1998 (awarded to Monsanto) only amounted to $19,832 CAD. Monsanto has calculated Schmeiser’s profit to be $105,000 CAD. Monsanto’s interveners include the Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, and the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Schmeiser's Arguments -
bullet Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s patent arguing that the patent contradicts the Harvard College v. Canada Supreme Court decision that higher-life forms cannot be patented. He explains that in claiming exclusive rights to glyphosate-resistant plant genes and cells, Monsanto is in effect claiming patentholder rights to any plants and seeds containing those genes and cells, which as the Supreme Court has already decided, is not legal. He argues that Monsanto should have instead chosen to protect its intellectual property rights under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, which was designed to protect the rights of seed developers. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004; BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that extending Monsanto’s patentholder rights to second-generation roundup-resistant seeds makes it illegal for farmer’s to save and share seeds—the 12 thousand year old practice responsible for creating domesticated crops. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004]
bullet Even if the patent is ruled valid, according to Zakreski, Monsanto implicitly waived its patentholder rights when it failed to control the spread of its invention after releasing it unconfined into the environment. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that even if the court upholds the validity of Monsanto’s patent, Schmeiser did not violate the patent, because he never exploited its utility—the resistance it provides against glyphosate. The only way to use the patent, he says, is to spray Monsanto Roundup Ready Canola with Roundup, which Schmeiser did not do. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski notes an inherent contradiction in the claim that Monsanto is entitled to all profits resulting from the sale of seed containing the patented gene. Zakreski offers the hypothetical example of a farmer whose canola is infested with two different genes, each patented by a different company. Would each of the patentholders be entitled to the full profit? Would the farmer be required to pay each of them 100 percent, in effect being forced to pay out twice the profit from his crop? [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Monsanto's argument -
bullet Monsanto’s lawyers reject Schmeiser’s position that a farmer’s right to save seed overrides the company’s patent rights. In order for them to recover research and development costs they must charge farmers annually for use of the seed containing their patented gene, they argue. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004; Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet The company’s lawyers also insist that the Harvard College v. Canada decision does not apply to this case. Its patent is not on the entire plant, but rather just one of the plant’s ingredients. He compares the company’s gene to a special patented steel that is used for an automobile where the inventor’s rights extend only to the steel, not the entire car. The judges interrupt Monsanto’s presentation on several occasions challenging the lawyer’s steel analogy and asking Monsanto’s lawyers where Monsanto’s patent rights would end since plants have the ability to reproduce themselves and hence the inventions contained within them.
bullet Lawyers for Monsanto’s interveners said that invalidating the company’s patent would harm Canada’s economy and undermine its patent system. “Patents create a climate that favors new research,” argues A. David Morrow, a lawyer for the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet Biotech Canada’s lawyer, Anthony Creber, similarly states, “I’m nervous that if you don’t give (patent protection) for seeds and cells, you will have a hollow Patent Act with severe economic consequences.” [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 1/21/2004]
bullet Mona Brown, a lawyer with the Canadian Canola Growers Association, tells the judges that the “patent makes us more profitable and better farmers.” [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: International Center for Technology Assessment, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, National Farmers Union, Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Sierra Club, Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Council of Canadians

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Farming cooperatives in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul agree to pay Monsanto royalties for all genetically modified soybeans they grow in 2004. Exporters and crushers will sign licensing agreements with Monsanto requiring them to collect a $.21 royalty for every 90-kg bag of GM soybeans purchased from farmers. [Latin America News Digest, 1/29/2004; Chemical News & Intelligence, 1/29/2004; Resource News International, 1/30/2004; ETC Group, 2/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

In a split 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that Percy Schmeiser violated Monsanto’s patent when he grew canola in 1998 that contained the company’s patented Roundup Ready gene. [Washington Post, 5/22/2004; Vancouver Sun, 5/22/2004; New York Times, 5/22/2004]
Decision - Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, argued that the protection of Monsanto’s patented genes and cells necessarily extended to restricting the use of any plants and seeds containing them. Since this in effect means that Monsanto is claiming patentholder’s rights for the whole plant, the court must rule, in light of its 2002 Harvard College v. Canada decision that higher-life forms cannot be patented, that the company’s patent must be invalid. However, the majority rejects Zakreski’s argument and affirms the validity of Monsanto’s patent. The majority says the “Harvard Mouse” case does not support Schmeiser’s argument because, while Harvard had sought to patent an actual mouse, Monsanto’s patent is limited to certain genes and cells. Furthermore, Harvard did acquire patents on certain parts of the mouse, a plasmid and a somatic cell culture, and therefore the “Harvard Mouse” case supports Monsanto case, not Schmeiser’s. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 8] The majority also rejects Schmeiser’s defense that he did not use Monsanto’s patented genes. While sidestepping the issue of whether or not it would be necessary to spray Roundup on the plants in order to exploit Monsanto’s patented genes and cells, the majority says that his 1998 canola crop provided him with “stand-by” utility, which a previous court decision determined constituted “use.” In possessing and growing the crop, the majority argues, Schmeiser had reserved the option to spray it with Roundup, should the need arise, or sell it to make a profit. The majority thus holds that Schmeiser infringed on the patent. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 11-13] It is important to note that the majority says this decision does not concern “the innocent discovery by farmers of ‘blow-by’ patented plants on their land or in their cultivated fields.” The majority makes it clear that they do not accept Schmeiser’s claim that his property was “contaminated” with Monsanto’s genes. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 5] For them it is accepted fact that (1) “tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of his 1,0[3]0 acres of canola crop [in 1998] was made up of Roundup Ready plants” [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 6] ; (2) “he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land” [emphasis added]; (3) he “segregated the seeds”; and (4) “he ended up with 1030 acres of Roundup Ready Canola.” All of these statements are made as matters of accepted fact even though they were, in fact, all disputed by Schmeiser (see January 20, 2004). [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 15] The court does however side with Schmeiser on the issue of compensation owed to Monsanto. “[Schmeiser’s and Schmeiser Enterprises’] profits were precisely what they would have been had they planted and harvested ordinary canola. They sold the Roundup Ready Canola they grew in 1998 for feed, and thus obtained no premium for the fact that it was Roundup Ready Canola. Nor did they gain any agricultural advantage from the herbicide resistant nature of the canola, since no finding was made that they sprayed with Roundup herbicide to reduce weeds. The appellants’ profits arose solely from qualities of their crop that cannot be attributed to the invention.” [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 17]
Dissenting Opinion - The minority opinion disagrees that any of Monsanto’s rights as a patentholder extend to plants, seeds, and crops. It accepts that Monsanto’s patent claims for the genes and cells are valid, but says that none of the protections afforded by the patent extend “to the plant itself, a higher life form incapable of patent protection.” According to the minority, “In order to avoid the claim extending to the whole plant, the plant cell claim cannot extend past the point where the genetically modified cell begins to multiply and differentiate into plant tissues, at which point the claim would be for every cell in the plant, i.e., for the plant itself.” Consequently, only the original genes and cells produced by Monsanto in the lab and contained within the original seed are protected by the patent—the resulting plant, its seeds, and the plants that grow from those seeds, are not. “Therefore saving, planting, or selling seed from glyphosate-resistant plants does not constitute an infringing use,” the minority concludes. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 22]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

(Show related quotes)

The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upholds a lower court’s October 2003 decision (see October 2003) to deny class-action status to an antitrust case against Monsanto and other companies. The suit alleges that the companies had conspired to fix prices and control the seed market. [Monsanto, 3/7/2005; AXcess News, 3/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

In a 233-page ruling, District Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismisses a lawsuit against US chemical companies that supplied the military with Agent Orange during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The lawsuit was filed by a group of lawyers on behalf of a million or so Vietnamese, seeking compensation for the effects of the toxic defoliant, which was sprayed on at least 3,181 villages during the Vietnam War (see 1960-1973). Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, diabetes and birth defects among Vietnamese soldiers, civilians and American veterans. Lawyers for Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical Co., Hercules Inc., and more than a dozen other companies argued that they were just following the legal orders of the commander-in-chief. “We’ve said all along that any issues regarding wartime activities should be resolved by the US and Vietnamese governments,” Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Dow Chemical, claimed. “We believe that defoliants saved lives by protecting allied forces from enemy ambush and did not create adverse health effects.” Coming to the defense of the chemical companies, the Justice Department filed a brief asserting that a ruling against the firms could cripple the president’s powers to direct US armed forces in wartime. In his ruling Judge Weinstein concludes that the plaintiffs did not prove that Agent Orange had caused their illnesses. “The fact that diseases were experienced by some people after spraying does not suffice to provide general or specific causation,” Weinstein writes. “There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs under the domestic law of any nation or state or under any form of international law. The case is dismissed.” [BBC, 3/10/2005; Associated Press, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Hercules, Inc., Jack B. Weinstein, Dow Chemical

Timeline Tags: US Military

After Percy Schmeiser finds volunteer Roundup Ready Canola plants growing in a 50-acre parcel of his farm that was chemically fallowed, he calls Monsanto and asks them to remove the plants. In 2000, a federal court issued an injunction barring him from growing any plants containing the company’s patented genes and cells (see March 29, 2001). A team of Monsanto investigators shows up and offers to remove the plants. But before they do so, they ask him to sign a legal release, prohibiting him from speaking publicly about the settlement terms and releasing the company of all liability. Schmeiser refuses. “I flatly refused to sign any release that would take my freedom of speech or my rights away,” he says. “They must think I’m absolutely crazy I would ever sign my rights away.” According to the company’s inspectors, the plants appear to have grown in a uniform pattern inconsistent with pollen flow. They also say that it is not normal for canola plants to flower in late September. In a letter dated September 30, Schmeiser responds that the dispersal pattern of the plants are not uniform and are thickest by the road, which is what one would expect if they germinated from seed blown of trucks or from a neighboring farm. He also notes that canola seeds may germinate at any point during the year, if conditions are right. With neither side willing to give in to the other’s demands, Schmeiser removes the plants himself on October 21. Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan insists the company is under no legal obligation to remove plants that show up in fields uninvited. [Western Producer (Saskatoon), 10/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Trish Jordan

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Federal Judge J. Michael Seabright rules that the US Department of Agriculture violated both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it allowed the cultivation of drug-producing GM crops in Hawaii. The court says the USDA acted in “utter disregard” of the two laws because it failed even to conduct preliminary investigations before granting approval for the growing of these crops. The Hawaii islands are home to 329 endangered and threatened species. Seabright’s ruling is the first court decision regarding plants that have been genetically modified to produce pharmaceutical drugs or industrial compounds. The case primarily concerned four permits that had been issued to Monsanto, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company, and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center allowing them to grow drug-producing corn and sugarcane at various locations in Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui between 2001 and 2003. The plaintiffs in the case—Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network North America, and KAHEA (the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance)—also challenged the USDA’s practice of refusing to disclose the locations where experimental chemical-producing GM plants are being grown and what substances those plants are being developed to produce. [Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Mike Johanns, et al., 8/10/2006 pdf file; Center for Food Safety, 8/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, US Department of Agriculture, Monsanto, Pesticide Action Network North America, J. Michael Seabright, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto announces that it will purchase Delta & Pine Land Company, the world’s largest cotton seed company, and the first company to obtain a patent on terminator technology (see March 3, 1998). Monsanto has had its sights on Delta & Pine Land for years. A previous plan to buy the company—announced in 1998 (see May 11, 1998)—fell through in December 1999 (see December 19, 1999). The acquisition means that Monsanto will control over 57 percent of the US cotton seed market. It will also deepen Monsanto’s reach into the developing world, where Delta & Pine Land has subsidiaries in 13 countries—including India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and Pakistan. According to the ETC Group, an outspoken critic of terminator technology, “the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world’s most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.” [Monsanto, 8/15/2006; ETC Group, 8/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land Company

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Mexican Department of Agriculture turns down all seven requests filed by biotech companies to plant experimental fields of genetically engineered corn in northern Mexico. Companies that applied for permits included Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and others. [Associated Press, 10/18/2006]

Entity Tags: Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

South Korea’s Supreme Court rules that US chemical corporations Monsanto and Dow Chemical must pay 39 Korean Vietnam War veterans $415,000 in total for skin diseases they suffered when they came into contact with the defoliant Agent Orange. South Korea sent some 300,000 soldiers to fight alongside US and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. The court also sends back for review a 2006 case that ordered the two firms to pay $61 million in compensation to 6,795 South Korean veterans and their families. The lawsuit filed by over 16,000 veterans in 1999 alleged that Agent Orange was responsible for skin diseases such as “chemical acne,” shown to be caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange. Veterans in South Korea estimate the number of Korean victims of Agent Orange at about 150,000. Dow says, in a statement quoted to the Yonhap news agency, that it disagrees with the ruling, and that the verdict was not backed by the available evidence. Dow cited US court rulings which had found in chemical corporations’ favor. The South Korean Supreme Court says in sending back the $61 million ruling case to a lower court, “There is no evidence their diseases were caused by their exposure to the defoliant sprayed during the Vietnam War.” Agent Orange, which contained the lethal chemical dioxin, was used heavily in Vietnam to deprive enemy forces of ground cover in rain forests, and to destroy food crops used by guerrillas and civilians. Vietnam has also asserted claims, saying that millions of its citizens have suffered and some have died due to Agent Orange exposure. The US has consistently refused to accept responsibility for the Vietnamese government’s claim, though it has agreed to be liable for the health complications in US soldiers that resulted from exposure (see 1960-1973). [Birmingham News, 7/12/2013; Agence France-Presse, 7/13/2013]

Entity Tags: South Korea Supreme Court, Monsanto, Dow Chemical

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

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