One Farmer Takes a Stand

WHEN MONSANTO Corporation accused Saskatchewan farmer Percy
Schmeiser of stealing its patented genetically modified (GM) canola
seed, it ignited a legal battle that has serious implications for
the rights of farmers around the world.

The genetically modified seeds, which Schmeiser claimed drifted
into his fields from neighboring farms, destroyed the 70-year-old
farmer?s lifelong work developing a variety of canola seeds ideally
adapted to local conditions. Worse, the corporation sued him for
using its patented seed without paying for it.

When brought to court, the judge sided with the biotechnology
giant, ruling that the way the seed got to Schmeiser?s land was
irrelevant. Schmeiser appealed, mortgaging his home to pay legal
bills. In September he lost that appeal but is now preparing to
take the case to Canada?s Supreme Court.

?Unfortunately, Schmeiser?s ordeal is not an isolated case,?
reports Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero in CorpWatch (October
21, 2002), a San Francisco?based online publication covering issues
in corporate accountability. Agribusiness corporations now use new
satellite imaging technologies to find crops containing patented GM
seed, and then sue the farmers who didn?t purchase it. Monsanto is
currently suing other farmers in Canada and the United States. For
his resistance to Monsanto?s legal attacks, Schmeiser was one of
nine environmental pioneers honored with a Bioneers Award at the
organization?s annual conference in October. Other winners
include:

  • Sebasti?o Salgado, Brazilian
    economist-turned-photographer, for his socially engaged documentary
    photography depicting the effects of rampant corporate
    globalization and injustice around the world.
  • Bogaletch Gebre, founder of Parents
    International Ethiopia and the Kembatta Women?s Self-Help Center,
    who has worked to restore damaged ecosystems and combat the
    subjugation of African women.
  • Anna Lapp?, who was given the first Bioneer?s
    Youth Award, for researching and drawing attention to people?s
    democracy movements worldwide.
  • David Orr, chair of the Environmental Studies
    Program at Oberlin College, for his work bringing environmental
    literacy to higher education.
  • Sylvia Earle, marine biologist and undersea
    explorer, for her tireless efforts to protect the vitality and
    health of the world?s oceans and marine life.
  • Aqeela Sherrills, co-founder of Ameri-I-Can
    organization, for his efforts to combat violence in the inner city
    by working to end gang violence, promote ecological improvements,
    and encourage self-sufficiency in employment, education, and
    housing.

This year, the Bioneers also awarded the Jenifer Altman
Foundation ?In the Service of Life Awards? to Peter
Warshall
, long-time editor of Whole Earth magazine, for
devoting much of his life to environmental sustainability, and to
Texas shrimper Diane Wilson, for putting herself
on the line for the environmental health of her community and for
her courageous opposition to the war in Iraq.

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