Fri, 4 January 2008
If you were told, that organic farmers are giving up growing organic crops, would you be concerned? Organic standards prohibit the presence of genetically engineered organisms within a harvest, but since outcrossing between plants is unavoidable in nature, genetically engineered canola is so easily crossing with non-GE varieties being grown organically, that these crops are unable to be certified as organic.
Monsanto has long been at the forefront of controversy around genetically engineered plants, and most notably, when their hired hands began trespassing onto farmers properties, taking samples, and then accusing farmers of stealing their technologies. One farmer who has now become world-renowned for his defiance of such actions, was Percy Schmeiser, whose field of non-genetically engineered canola became the unwilling host to Monsanto's patented GE variety known as Roundup Ready Canola. It was this case, that eventually set the precedent that a company can indeed own the lifeforms (the plants) that inadvertently make their way onto a farmers field. But if a company maintains ownership of the seed and hence the plant, then should that company maintain responsibility for the damages that their property causes?
The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has since 2002 been seeking compensation for the damages caused by the property owned by the American-based Monsanto and Germany's Bayer. A class action lawsuit was chosen, as the issues raised by the two plaintiffs are no different than those faced by any organic farmer operating in Canada. In May 2005, the lower court in Saskatchewan denied the group such class action status, and subsequent appeals were also denied in May 2007 and then again in December 2007 by the Supreme Court of Canada. This exhausted all legal avenues for such a case. But while the denial of acquiring such status is a blow to the farmers, it's far from being the end to their fight.
Sean Gardner, Vice President & General Manager - Monsanto Canada Inc. (Winnipeg, MB) - Monsanto's Canadian operations are part of the larger, global Monsanto company headquartered in St. Louis, MO. The company produces canola, corn and soybean seed products, and a range of herbicides most often found under the brand name - Roundup. Sean has been with the Canadian operation since 2005 and in his current position since August 2006. He previously worked as Monsanto's country lead for the Mediterranean area comprised of Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sean joined Monsanto in 1998 when the company acquired PBI Cambridge. Prior to joining Monsanto, Sean worked at Unilever.
Arnold Taylor, President - Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) (Kenaston, SK) - Since 1991, SOD has acted as an umbrella organization for organic producers, certifiers and processors. They are the SK chapter of the Canadian Organic Growers. The organization maintains a membership of 600-700. Arnold operates Taylor Organic Farms with his son. The 3,000 acre farm has been certified organic since 1992. Arnold is the President of the Canadian Organic Growers and the Chair of the Organic Federation of Canada. He is also the chair of SOD's Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee.
Marc Loiselle, Communications and Research Director - Saskatchewan Organic Directorate's OAPF (Vonda, SK) - Marc farms on a century old family farm. The Loiselle Organic Family Farm grows cereal, oilseed, pulse, clover and hay crops. They raise chickens, goats and cattle. Marc has worked with certified organic and biodynamic practices for 22 years. Marc is one of a few farmers in Canada growing Red Fife Wheat.
Denise Dewar, ex Executive Vice-President Plant Biotechnology - CropLife Canada (Toronto, ON) - CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations — pest control products and plant biotechnology — for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings. Denise is now in the same position for CropLife International.
Mischa Popoff, isitorganic.ca (Osoyoos, BC) - Mischa was an organic inspector until 2003. In an interview with The Western Producer, Popoff questioned the integrity of the organic sector, following which, he had trouble finding work in the industry. Popoff was a nominee in the 2007 federal Conservative Party candidacy for the BC Southern Interior riding.