Highlights from 2004

Court hears farmers' bid for class certification in GMO liability case

Saskatchewan's certified organic farmers took a big step forward with their recent class certification hearing, November 1, 2 and 3. Judge Jean Ann Smith heard from Terry Zakreski, legal counsel for the farmers arguing in favour of having the legal action certified as a class action under the Saskatchewan Class Action Act. Lawyers for Monsanto and Bayer argued against certification. If certified, this case will proceed to trial in order to settle issues of liability for losses due to genetic contamination of certified organic crops and fields as a result of contamination by Roundup Ready Canola and Liberty Link Canola.

Read more. (PDF 167KB)

Certification Hearing delayed!

Monsanto and Bayer requested and were granted an adjournmentof the Class Certification Hearing for the legal action Hoffman et al. v Monsanto and Bayer, which was to have been held on September 14 and 15, 2004.

See media advisory. PDF 131KB

GE Wheat pulled, focus shifts to liability issues

Monsanto has dropped its plans to introduce Roundup Ready wheat. On June 19, 2004 Monsanto withdrew its application for regulatory approval of Roundup Ready wheat in Canada and the USA, after having announced in May that they were dropping plans to commercialize the crop. This is in no small part due to our legal action and widespread citizens' opposition to GE wheat.

We are exceedingly pleased that the immediate threat of GE wheat has been lifted. As a result, we will not be proceeding with our injunction against Roundup Ready wheat at this time, since it is no longer an imminent threat. However, we remain vigilant and are prepared to act if Monsanto or any other company moves to introduce GE wheat.

Our legal action is now able to focus on the Monsanto and Bayer's liability for GE canola contamination. According to the Canadian Supreme Court decision in the Schmeiser vs. Monsanto decision, biotech companies are entitled to monopoly rights over their patented genes wherever the genes occur. We assert that these companies must also be liable for losses that result from the unwanted presence of these patented genes. We've lost the right to grow canola, and now the right to save our own seed is being threatened.

This case has been described as a potential "tidal wave" Our case is generating a lot of interest in legal circles. Professor Jane Glenn from McGill University wrote "the issue of corporate responsibility for wrongs is now squarely before the courts, in Hoffman v. Monsanto Canada Inc. This case has been described as a potential "tidal wave" compared to the "legal ripple" of Schmeiser." in her article, Genetically Modified Crops in Canada: Rights and Wrongs.

In Liability for the Release of GMOs into the Environment: Exploring the Boundaries of Nuisance Professor Christopher Rodgers, University of Wales in Aberystwyth, wrote: "The decision in Hoffman Farms will be eagerly awaited, and may have major implications for plans to license GM crops for commercial exploitation in the UK. Whatever the outcome, the Canadian litigation will throw into sharp relief the issues surrounding environmental liability for GMO contamination, and the potential use of tort law to modulate property rights and risk where the introduction of GM crops is involved."

Monsanto pulls RR Wheat Application

On June 21, 2004 we learned that Monsanto has withdrawn its application to have RR Wheat approved in Canada and the USA, except for FDA Health approval in the USA. This is a huge victory for all of us who have fought to protect wheat from genetic contamination. We will continue to monitor developments in genetic engineering and take steps to prevent another company from bringing any other type of GE wheat forward as well.

Read more. (PDF 295KB)

Supreme Court Decision on Monsanto v. Schmeiser

On May 21, 2004 the Court narrowly decided in favour of Monsanto in it's patent infringement suit against Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser. The 5-4 ruling allows biotech corporations monopoly control over seeds, plants and their progeny on the basis that they consist of cells that contain patented genes - either intentionally or as a result of GMO contamination.

Read the full SOD OAPF Press Release (PDF 135KB)

Denmark Hearings

On May 11, 2004 OAPF Committee member, Cathy Holtslander made a presentation to the Danish Parliament's Agriculture Committee at hearings examining their proposed legislation on co-existence.

Read Cathy's paper.(PDF 120KB)

Full transcripts of the hearing.

Monsanto backs off

Monsanto issued a press release on May 10, 2004 indicating it is putting plans to introduce Roundup Ready wheat on hold, but is not abandoning its pursuit of regulatory approval.

Read the SOD OAPF Press Release. (PDF 120KB)

GM Free Zones Conference

On April 16 and 17, 2004 OAPF Committee member, Marc Loiselle was a speaker at the 2nd Annual conference on GM-free zones in Asti, Italy.

Artisan Bread Tour by Heritage Wheat Presidia

The Slow Food Movement is promoting Red Fife wheat. Hear more on CBC's "Food for Thought" (scroll down to "Heritage wheat").

Affidavits upheld

On February 26, 2004 there was Court hearing on motions by Monsanto and Bayer to strike certain affidavits in support of the recent amendments to our claim. Monsanto applied to strike the affidavits of Marc Loiselle, Bob Willick, Martin Pratchler, Douglas Sawatsky and Brian Kozisek, and dealt with each in some detail. Bayer moved to strike portions of affidavits by Willick and Pratchler. Judge Smith ruled in our favour, and did not strike any of the affidavits.

See her ruling.(pdf 99k)

Read more.

Claim Amended

On February 2, 2004 we amended our statement of claim to include compensation for the ongoing costs of removing genetically engineered canola from certified organic farmers fields and seed supplies, to include as members of the class all certified organic farmers as of the date of class certification, and to reflect the fact that Bayer CropScience Inc. has taken over Aventis. See the revised statement of claim. (PDF 780KB)

The defendants did not contest the amendment to our claim, but they did wish to strike some of the affidavits we submitted in its support. The Court will hear their arguments on February 26. Due to time constraints of the Court and lawyers, our class certification hearing is scheduled to be held May 17 and 18, 2004. The Court is located on Spadina Crescent in Saskatoon, and proceedings are open to the public.

Read more.

The OAPF Committee welcomed news in January 2004, that the government of Canada has ended its contract with Monsanto which would have provided the government with royalties from sales of Roundup Ready Wheat.

See our press release. (PDF 15KB)

Contact us

Arnold Taylor
Chair of OAPF Committee

Marc Loiselle
OAPF Communications and Research Director

Saskatchewan Organic Directorate
Organic Agriculture Protection Fund
Box 32066
RPO Victoria Square,
Regina SK S4N 7L2
Email: oapf@saskorganic.com