SASKATOON (CP) - Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser says he did
not use Roundup Ready canola because it would have forced him to
change his farming practices. "I believe that if I used
herbicide-tolerant canola I would not be able to seed back to
back," Schmeiser told Federal Court on Tuesday.
"When you spray Roundup on canola it leaves a residue. It kills
a lot of certain bacteria in the soil."
The 69-year-old farmer is being sued by biotechnology giant Monsanto
for allegedly infringing on a patent the company holds for a
The St.-Louis-based company claims Schmeiser deliberately grew
about 365 hectares of the genetically modified canola, which allows
farmers to plant earlier and control weeds better because it can
withstand the powerful herbicide Roundup.
Monsanto launched the suit in August 1998 after receiving
complaints from people in the area.
Schmeiser has alleged the company failed to properly instruct
farmers on how to plant the genetically engineered canola and keep
it from spreading to neighbouring fields. He has said his crop was
contaminated by nearby farms.
Schmeiser testified Tuesday that he used Roundup to control weeds
around power poles in his fields and nearby ditches, but not on his
"When you spray in crop it's bad farming practice,"
Schmeiser told the packed courtroom.
He explained that he has developed his own strain of
disease-resistant Argentine canola that he feels is superior
because, in combination with his methods, he can grow canola on the
same field in consecutive years.
Ordinarily a farmer needs to allow a field to lay fallow after
one or two years of growing canola.
The court heard that Schmeiser test-sprayed Roundup on one
hectare of his land near Bruno, Sask., after discovering some of his
canola plants near the power poles did not die following application
of the herbicide in 1997.
The farmer told the court that he used seed from that field in
combination with some from another field to plant his 1998 canola
The company claims Schmeiser knew the surviving plants would
produce Roundup Ready canola seeds and used them deliberately to
plant his 1998 crop.
Schmeiser testified Tuesday that he used the seed from that field
because it was convenient.
"It was the canola I could get the quickest at," he
said. "It's just because it was there."
Seeds from the bright yellow canola flower are crushed to produce
cooking oil. The flowers are designed to spread their pollen over
great distances by both wind and insects. Most of the pollen falls
to the ground within a few metres of its source, but a small
percentage may become airborne.
Researchers in Scotland have estimated canola pollen can drift as
far as four kilometres under ideal conditions.
Roundup Ready canola, one of three major herbicide-resistant
brands of canola, was first used in Canada in 1996.
Monsanto says there are more than 20,000 farmers using the
genetically engineered canola on just over two million hectares
across Canada this year.
Almost three-quarters of canola acreage in Western Canada last
year was herbicide-resistant.