It was only a matter of time. With all the biotech battles in San Diego this week, the name Percy Schmeiser was bound to turn up eventually. Percy who? This Canadian canola-farmer-turned-activist was successfully sued by Monsanto for seed piracy – that is, the use of Monsanto’s genetically improved crop without paying the required license fee (as thousands of other farmers do). Schmeiser’s excuse? The wind blew the crop onto his fields. The court’s ruling? No way, Jose (see conclusions, page 61). First, over 95% of Schmeiser’s crop tested positive for Monsanto’s patented gene (which makes the plant immune to Roundup herbicide). Second, Percy’s farm was over 5 miles away from the nearest biotech planting; canola pollen, even of the Roundup-Ready variety, don’t travel that far on breezes alone.
Percy Schmeiser may have been a careless thief, but he’s certainly a savvy activist. He has been making the rounds of “Organic” and “Sustainable” Food events, often accompanied by Craig Winters (of “The Campaign” to Label GE Foods). Early reports from San Diego had him in the thick of things, and now his fellow activist Jim Tischer has weighed in, calling food technology “uncontrollable” and Schmeiser a “victim.” With Percy’s courtroom defeat, activists opposed to food technology have gained a new martyr, and Schmeiser has helped the movement raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through the “Fight Genetically Modified Food Fund,” registered to his name in a Saskatchewan bank.