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Schmeiser settles for $660 from Monsanto

Percy Schmeiser’s latest legal fight against Monsanto Canada has ended with the Saskatchewan farmer settling for $660 and on the hook for the costs of filing his claim.

Schmeiser was due to appear Wednesday at a provincial small claims court in Saskatoon, where he had filed a claim against Monsanto for the costs of clearing volunteer Roundup Ready canola that grew on a chem-fallow field in 2005.

Schmeiser, on his web site, stated Wednesday he “believes this precedent-setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready canola or any other unwanted (genetically modified) plants.”

However, while it’s “pleased” Schmeiser approached the company and agreed to settle, Monsanto Canada found it “frustrating that he essentially accepted the same offer we put before him in 2005 at the time we visited with him and offered him solutions to address the presence of unexpected Roundup Ready canola volunteers on his land,” Trish Jordan, the company’s public affairs director, said in a release Wednesday.

“This entire matter could have been resolved more than two and a half years ago and Mr. Schmeiser would have saved himself some legal costs,” she said.

Several other Prairie farmers have willingly accepted compensation similar to what Schmeiser settled for, Monsanto said, noting six such cases in 2005 — the year Schmeiser found the “unexpected” RR canola volunteers — and 16 such cases in 2007.

In such cases, the company said, a farmer signs Monsanto’s standard release form, in which he or she waives any other claims against the company over the specific volunteer canola problem in question. The terms of the settlement Wednesday will require Schmeiser to sign a similar form, the company added.

But Schmeiser, on his web site, said the terms of Wednesday’s agreement ensured that “there was no gag-order on the settlement and that Monsanto could be sued again if further contamination occurred.”

Schmeiser, who farms at Bruno, Sask., about 90 km east of Saskatoon, gained worldwide fame and notoriety from an unrelated case starting in the late 1990s, when he fought Monsanto all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada over the company’s claim that he had infringed its patent by growing Roundup Ready canola without paying for a license to do so.

Schmeiser lost that case at the Supreme Court in 2004 but was not held liable for court costs or damages to the company. His web site still accepts donations to cover legal bills.

Crops with Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready genetics are engineered to survive application of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the company’s Roundup herbicide, when farmers use the chemical to clear weeds off a field.

Farmers who seed Roundup Ready crops must pay a licensing fee and sign a technology use agreement (TUA) that enforces Monsanto’s patent by requiring them not to use their harvested Roundup Ready seed to plant subsequent crops.

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