Contact: Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment at (360) 650-3520.
BELLINGHAM – Percy Schmeiser will present "The Farmer Who Took on Monsanto" at Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment's Speaker Series, at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, in Fraser Hall 4 on Western Washington University's campus.
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the WWU Center for Canadian-American Studies, Western's Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies' World Issues Forum, and the Community Food Co-op.
Farmers have been saving seeds since the dawn of agriculture, but that practice and crop diversity are threatened by consolidation of seed ownership by a handful of large chemical and pharmaceutical corporations. Agricultural resiliency and the integrity of neighboring ecosystems are further threatened by promotion of transgenic (GMO) crops by those same companies. Corporate control often is exacerbated by regulatory capture of the agencies charged with protecting farmers, the public, and the environment. Few farmers have succeeded in resisting this transformation of the agricultural system, but Schmeiser is one of those rare farmers, and his story is compelling.
Schmeiser is an elder statesman in the struggle for farmers' rights, food integrity, and biodiversity in a transgenic era. He has been challenging Monsanto's efforts to promote genetically engineered crops since 1998.
When Monsanto's 'Round-up Ready' GMO canola seeds were found in his fields, Monsanto sued the Schmeisers for patent infringement and sought $400,000 in damages. Monsanto offered to withdraw the suit if the Schmeisers signed a contract to buy the company's seeds in the future and to pay its associated technology-use fee. The Schmeisers contested the case to the Canadian Supreme Court, which ruled that Monsanto did own the “Round-up Ready” gene, but that the Schmeisers owed no damages to Monsanto. When Monsanto's seeds again found their way into Percy's fields, he sued the company for cleanup costs.
The case was settled when Monsanto agreed to pay to clean the Schmeisers' fields and dropped its demand that Percy not speak publicly about the matter. From his experience, Percy has developed 12 principles for food and agriculture in an age of biotechnology.
Schmeiser’s story is one of the first and most prominent cases of a corporate claim to own patents on life. It foreshadows unfolding struggles over who controls intellectual property, cultural heritage, and the foods we eat.
Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada, where he is a leader of the region's farm community and an advocate for farmers’ rights worldwide. He was a member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly from 1967-1971, mayor of Bruno from 1963-1982, a town councillor from 2003-2006, and serves on several provincial and international commissions. He has won many honors, including the Social Justice Award (2010), the Right Livelihood Award (2007), the Council of Canadians' Activist of the Year Award (2004), and the Mahatma Gandhi Award (2000).
The speaker series is held by Huxley College of the Environment to bring together the environmentally minded community and other interested members of the WWU and Bellingham communities. Speakers address topics of contemporary environmental concern in the region and the world. For more information, please contact the main Huxley office, (360) 650-3520.
Huxley College of the Environment is one of the oldest environmental colleges in the nation and a recognized national leader in producing the next generation of environmental stewards. The College’s academic programs reflect a broad view of the physical, biological, social and cultural world. This innovative and interdisciplinary approach makes Huxley College unique. The College has earned international recognition for the quality of its programs.