percy schmeiser's on the phone from his farm near Bruno, Saskatchewan. "I just came in for lunch," he says. "The phone's been busy since 12 o'clock." Media from around the world have been calling, wanting to know what Schmeiser's next legal move is. He's become a cause célèbre for anti-globalization forces and opponents of genetically modified foods ever since biotech giant Monsanto took him to court.
Last week, a Saskatchewan court found that Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto's patent rights by not reporting the presence in his field of its genetically modified canola -- no matter how it got there -- and by not then signing the company's licensing agreement and paying for the canola.
A judge awarded the company $15,000 in damages and will rule next month on what portion of the $105,000 Schmeiser earned from the sale of his crop should go to Monsanto. Schmeiser says he doesn't know how the seed that gave rise to the genetically modified canola got onto his land. He speculates it blew in from a neighbouring farm.
Schmeiser has filed a separate suit against Mansanto, claiming that the company's seed, which is in widespread use, is out of control and finding its own way into farmers' crops.
The case has already cost him $200,000, and Schmeiser figures he'll need $100,000 more for an appeal.
"If I get the financial backing, I'll definitely go ahead," he says. A defence fund has been set up at the CIBC in nearby Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Donations should be directed to the Fight Genetically Altered Food Fund, account number 38-01411.
Several European countries, meanwhile, are threatening not to buy Canadian wheat grown from genetically altered seed that Monsanto plans to introduce by 2005.