Friday 21, October 2011, 3:00 pm, Fraser Hall 4
Farmers have been saving seeds since the dawn of agriculture, but that practice and crop diversity are threatened by consolidation of seed ownership by a handful of large chemical and pharmaceutical corporations. Agricultural resiliency and the integrity of neighboring ecosystems are further threatened by promotion of transgenic (GMO) crops by those same companies. Corporate control often is exacerbated by regulatory capture of the agencies charged with protecting farmers, the public, and the environment.
Few farmers have succeeded in resisting this transformation of the agricultural system. Percy Schmeiser is one of those rare farmers, and his story is compelling.
Percy Schmeiser is an elder statesman in the struggle for farmers' rights food integrity, and biodiversity in a transgenic era. He has been challenging Monsanto's efforts to promote genetically engineered crops since 1998.
When Percy's fields were contaminated by Monsanto's 'Round-up Ready' GMO canola seeds, Monsanto sued the Schmeisers for patent infringement and sought $400,000 in damages. Monsanto offered to withdraw the suit if the Schmeisers signed a contract to buy the company's seeds in the future and to pay its associated technology use fee. The Schmeisers
contested the case to the Canadian Supreme Court, which ruled that Monsanto did "own" the 'Round-up Ready' gene, but that the Schmeisers owed no damages to Monsanto. When Monsanto's seeds again contaminated Percy's fields, he sued the company. The case was settled when Monsanto agreed to pay to clean the Schmeisers' fields and dropped its demand
that Percy not speak publicly about the matter. From his experience, Percy has developed 12 principles for food and agriculture in an age of biotechnology.
The Schmeiser story is one of the first and most prominent cases of a corporate claim to own patents on life. It foreshadows unfolding struggles over who controls intellectual property, cultural heritage, and the foods we eat.
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan,
where he is a leader of the region's farm community and an advocate for farmer's rights worldwide. He was a Member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly from 1967-1971. Percy was Mayor of Bruno from 1963-1982, a town councillor from 2003-2006, and serves on several provincial and international commissions. He has won many honors, including
the Social Justice Award (2010), the Right Livelihood Award (2007), the Council of Canadians' Activist of the Year Award (2004), and the Mahatma Gandhi Award (2000).
Huxley College of the Environment
WWU Center for Canadian-American Studies
World Issues Forum of Fairhaven College
Community Food Co-op
For more info: Contact John McLaughlin