Percy Schmeiser: Sticking it to the Mon
By Doug Endrizzi
Hannah Montana is no longer my hero. As of last week, she’s been replaced by an 77 year old Canadian farmer with a squeaky voice. Percy Schmeiser, the guest at Yale’s agrarian studies colloquim last friday, looks unassuming, but he’s gained an international reputation as the man who stood up to Monsanto, and won.
Who is Monsanto? If you’re new to food issues, they’re as close to pure evil as you get. Monsanto is the world’s leading producer and advocate of genetically modified crops, and they’ve developed a nasty corporate reputation for bullying farmers. They sell GM Roundup Ready Crops, the Roundup Biocide, Bovine Growth Hormone, and many other products demonstrably harmful to human health and ecological stability around the world.
Schmeiser got into the fight in 1998, when Monsanto agents trespassing on his land discovered that some of his plants contained the Roundup Ready Gene, which gives a plant protection from the Roundup biocide. Percy and his wife, organic seed producers and breeders for 50 years, never used Monsanto’s seed. It had blown over from a neighboring farm. Monsanto sued.
Schmeiser was a test case for Monsanto, who under Canadian law had just successfully argued that they owned any organism that contained their patented gene. In 2002 the district judge ruled in favor of Monsanto.
But Schmeiser wasn’t done. Six years of appeals went all the way to the Supreme court, and while Schmeiser did not have to pay, it was declared that Monsanto did in fact have ownership over any life form with their patented genes.
Schmesiser has since taking his message around the world, having traveled to 150 countries exposing the scare tactics of Monsanto. For example: In Canada, Monsanto began posting advertisements in the local papers and on radio stations asking farmers to “snitch” on their neighbors if they suspected them of using Monsanto’s seed, while simultaneously sending threats to farmers, regardless of whether or not they actually had any justification. Monsanto also routinely engaged in physical intimidation and destruction of property through aerial spraying of Roundup on farmer’s crops to test for the gene.
But GM foods can save cure the world from hunger! Organics are useless! Possibly French!
That’s the voice of Monsanto. Their claim is dubious. Our world produces 3500 calories of food energy per person per day, almost twice the amount of food needed. The woes of the global food system are greater than just being able to produce enough food for everyone; GM foods are not a silver bullet. And every independent study I’ve seen suggests that they actually worsen food security and environmental stability.
This post could go on for pages and pages detailing the loss of genetic diversity from GM crops, Monsanto’s monopolistic control of the market, their predominance as the largest receiver of government subsidies, and their brutal disregard for humanity around the world, but here’s some people that have done it for me.
The bottom line? Say it with me: Fuck Monsanto.