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Canadian Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto for Genetic Pollution

Canadian Organic Farmers Sue
Monsanto for Genetic Pollution

Subject: [coc-chaps-l] Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto and Aventis
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 10:23:14 -0600
From: Don Kossick <kossickd@shaw.ca>

Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto and Aventis

Independent Dispatch - Don Kossick, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

History was being made on January 10th when two Saskatchewan organic farmers
Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin filed a class action against Monsanto and
Aventis on behalf of all certified organic farmers. in Saskatchewan. The
class suit seeks compensation for damages caused by Monsanto and Aventis
genetically engineered canola, and an injunction to prevent Monsanto from introducing
GE Wheat in Saskatchewan.

In a charged press conference atmosphere organic farmer Arnold Taylor,
President of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD), who is supporting
the class action suit, went through the claims against Monsanto and Aventis:

GE Canola has spread across the Prairies and contaminated conventional crops
so extensively that most certified organic grain farmers no longer attempt to
grow canola;

Monsanto and Aventis when introducing their GE canolas should have known, or
ought to have known that the genetically engineered canola would spread and
contaminate the environment. The companies had no regard for the damage
these crops would cause to organic agriculture;

The claim alleges that loss of canola as an organic crop has robbed organic
farmers of a high-paying and growing market. Organic customers have a zero
tolerance for genetically engineered crops.

"Organic farmers believe the same thing will happen to wheat if GE wheat is
introduced", stated Arnold Taylor. He said, "Since wheat is the cornerstone
of prairie agriculture, and essential for organic crop rotations, losing wheat
to genetic contamination would devastate organic farming in Saskatchewan."

Arnold Taylor further stated, ""We've been forced to live with GE canola.
We've asked for a moratorium on GE wheat, we've lobbied to change the variety
registration process, and we've just hit a brick wall. We feel we have no
choice left but to pursue legal action. This is a matter of survival for organic
agriculture in Saskatchewan."

The Statement of Claim declares, "the defendant, Monsanto Canada, unless
restrained by this honourable Court intends to release its GM wheat into the
Saskatchewan environment on an unrestricted basis, without regard to the
damage its gene may cause to wheat crops values and certified organic farmers".

If the action is certified as a class action by the Court under Saskatchewan's
recently enacted Class Actions Act, all certified organic farmers in
Saskatchewan will be represented, with the possibility that other Canadian
certified organic grain farmers residing outside Saskatchewan being given
the option of participating at a later date.

The suit seeks to hold Monsanto and Aventis responsible for any GM
contamination on multiple grounds including negligence, nuisance, trespass,
pollution under the Saskatchewan Environmental Management and Protection
Act and failure to conduct an environmental assessment and seek ministerial
approval as required by the Environmental Assessment Act of Saskatchewan.

Terry Zakreski, legal counsel representing the Plaintiffs, indicated that
the next significant step in the process is to request that the Court certify
the action as a class action under the Act, which he anticipates will take place
within a few months.

He also stated, " If the Federal government wishes to proceed with the
approval for the unconfined release into the environment of GE Wheat we
would apply to ask that decision be set aside relying on federal environmental
legislation".

Marc Loiselle, a SOD director and organic farmer from Vonda, Saskatchewan
stated, "in Saskatchewan we are directly affected by the introduction of GE
herbecide tolerant canola and possible wheat in the very near future if it
is not stopped soon. GE Canola and other GE crops can not be contained within
specific fields because of the genetic drift of their novel traits, such as
the RoundUp Ready gene, by the spreading of pollen and seed and GE Wheat will be
no different".

"We cannot put our faith in a post-harvest segregation system for GE Wheat,
when it can not even be segregated in the field when it is growing", said Marc
Loiselle.

Marc Loiselle stated, "If farmers do not take a stand on limits to patenting
and how bio technology is used to alter seeds such as wheat; we risk losing our
market access, loss of income, loss of choice, as well as losing control
over what we produce, how we produce it, what value it has, and who will buy it.
This would also be an unacceptable situation for consumers who are ultimately the
market for the product we produce".

"We are formally asking the federal government to do a full environmental
assessment that considers the overall socio-economic impact of GE Wheat",
said Loiselle.

Marc Loiselle concluded, "We want the right to farm GMO free and the right
to eat GMO free".

Joan Harrison, a non farmer member of SOD discussed the significance of the
class action suit for urban consumers saying "as a consumer I feel it is
very important to support organic farmers in their efforts to stop the
introduction of more GMO food crops."

"Wheat is a very basic food. It is hard to eat a meal that does not include
it in some form. If genetic engineered wheat is registered in Canada and grown
on the Canadian prairies, then the inevitable pollution will occur and local
farmers will lose a very important crop and consumers will be in the
ridiculous position of having to buy organic wheat elsewhere", said Joan Harrison.

She pointed out that consumers are demanding organic products. Organic sales
are growing by 20 per cent annually and will reach 3.5 billion dollars by 2005.
A recent US study shows that one third of consumers are buying some organic
items which are commonly available in many supermarkets. Western Europeans have
embraced organic food enthusiastically, with the Danish leading the way.

Given the Canadian and Saskatchewan reliance on the export of wheat and
other crops the class action suit targets the vulnerability of this export market
if it is contaminated by GE varieties and the economic and social jeopardy that
farm communities are facing.. The introduction of GE Wheat will destroy the
ability to produce certified organic wheat.

SOD is confident that there is mass support for their class action suit from
the organic farmers of Saskatchewan, conventional farmers who will have their
crops polluted as well by GE Wheat, and from consumers who want non GE food.
Arnold Taylor stated, "We are asking organic farmers, conventional farmers,
processors, traders and consumers to support this action with all they have got - our
very future is at stake.We are trying to build a grand alliance and this alliance
is anticipated to become world-wide".

-30-

Funds to support this class action suit are being raised through the
SOD Organic Agriculture Protection Fund. The SOD website
www.saskorganic.com contains further information, by clicking on
Organic Agricultural Protection Fund. Further information can be
obtained through Arnold Taylor at 306 252 2783 or Marc Loiselle at 306
258 2192 or email Marc Loiselle loiselle@sk.sympatico.ca

Don Kossick is an independent journalist with
www.makingthelinksradio.com.

 


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