Genetically Altered Seeds May Pollute Conventional Crops

Genetically altered seeds cause controversy. Canadian farmers claim they are the victim of unwanted cross-pollination and worry that their conventional crops could be contaminated by wind-borne genetic pollution.

| February/March 2000

Genetically altered seeds continue to produce as much controversy as they do crops. 

In the latest scene in the ongoing seed soap opera, Canadian grain farmer Percy Schmeiser is headed to court in a landmark lawsuit involving the agrichemical and biotech giant Monsanto Corporation, the same company responsible for the controversial Terminator seed technology (see MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 1999, "Suicidal Seeds" by Heather Cox). Monsanto has launched a lawsuit against Schmeiser, claiming the 68-year-old farmer illicitly acquired the company's genetically altered Roundup Ready Canola seeds and was using them to produce an unlicensed canola crop on his farmland. Schmeiser denies ever having purchased or planted Monsanto's Roundup seeds, and has responded with a $10 million countersuit.

"The fact that a company can produce and sell GMOs [genetically modified organisms] without any regard for the environment or farmers points to a serious flaw in the system," says Schmeiser.

The genetically altered seeds in question contain a transplanted gene that makes them resistant to Roundup herbicide, Monsanto's most commercially successful weed killer. By spraying Roundup herbicide on Roundup Ready Canola, farmers can eliminate the weeds in their fields without damaging the genetically modified plants. The result is a weed-free crop that produces higher yields and bigger profits. The number of Canadian farmers growing Roundup Ready Canola has grown to more than 20,000 - up 8,000 from a year ago.

However, Schmeiser's statement of claim against Monsanto (he says he's the victim of unwanted cross-pollination) echoes the concerns of many Canadian farmers who worry that their conventional crops could be contaminated by wind-borne genetic pollution.

"This is a callous disregard for the environment," says Schmeiser. "I'm going to keep fighting this because I believe this is an issue that affects every farmer."

Carrie L. Sommers_1
9/4/2009 3:05:40 PM

Corporations like Monsanto are where our honeybees are disapearing to. Corporations like Dow and the rest that sell over the counter pesticides to the average joe, who has no knowledge at all on the dangers are the problem. Look at the back of everyone of them and they state clearly, "Deadley to Honeybees". People do not read what they are buying in their big rush to kill every single dandelion or spider. A man made plant will surely find it's way into the enviroment in more ways than we can name. In the rush of "Let us feed everyone, and get rich." Is the thought, "We were so worried about if we could, we did not stop to think if we should."

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