The Class Action

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) is the umbrella organization that unites the province's producers, processors, buyers, traders, certifiers and consumers of certified organic food and fibre. It is incorporated as a non-profit membership organization. SOD's mission statement is "To champion the development of organic agriculture in a democratic manner" and the Vision Statement is "Food for Life".

October 12, 2001 SOD launched the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (SOD OAPF) to pay the expenses for the Class Action lawsuit on behalf of all certified organic grain farmers in Saskatchewan against Monsanto and Aventis, which is seeking compensation for damages caused by their genetically engineered (GE) canola and to get an injunction to prevent Monsanto from introducing GE wheat in Saskatchewan. SOD's position paper on GMOs (PDF 71KB) laid the foundation for the decision to go ahead with the class action suit.

The Statement of Claim (PDF 557KB) was registered at Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon, SK on January 10, 2002. The claim alleges that 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.

The claim states that when Monsanto and Aventis introduced their GE canolas they knew, 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 farmers believe the same thing will happen to wheat if GE wheat is introduced. 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.

The first major step in a class action is apply to the Court to have the action certified as a class action. There are five requirements that the Court will look at before certifying an action as a class action: the pleadings must disclose a cause of action; there must be an identifiable class of persons; the proposed representative plaintiff must be appropriate; there must be common issues between the members of the class; and the class action procedure is the preferable procedure for the resolution of the common issues. We are confident that our class action will be certified.

On April 16, 2002 Monsanto and Aventis asked to be relieved of their usual obligation to file Defences before the certification application. Aventis and Monsanto argued that Defences are not really required for the certification hearing and the defences could well change depending on whether and how the action is certified. Our lawyer argued that the Defences would help identify common issues and would assist in presenting the facts at the certification hearing. The Judge's decision on May 2, 2002, compelled the companies to submit a statement of defence in advance of the class action's certification hearing. She said that fairness would be served by allowing the plaintiffs advance notice of any defences the companies wish to raise. This will assist the plaintiffs in showing that the action is best suited for the class action procedure and would allow them to request further details (particulars) from the companies, if needed, in order to be as prepared as possible for the certification hearing. Although it was a divided result, the plaintiffs were satisfied with Judge Smith's May 2, 2002 ruling. (PDF 757KB)

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Contact us

Arnold Taylor
Chair of OAPF Committee
e-mail

Marc Loiselle
OAPF Communications and Research Director
e-mail

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

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