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Daily News Archive
From January 15, 2002

Organic Farmers Fight Back

Faced with the risk of losing their most lucrative crop, organic farmers have no choice but to take Monsanto Canada and Aventis CropScience to court.

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) launched a class-action suit against Monsanto and Aventis asking for millions in damages due to lost organic markets for genetically modified (GM) canola, and asking the court to slap an injunction against the release of GM wheat, which is already being grown in test plots in Canada.

Determining the actual amount of damages will be an ongoing process as the suit continues, according to lawyer Terry Sakreski, who is representing the farmers. All 1,000 organic farmers in Saskatchewan are part of the suit unless they opt out, and organic farmers in other parts of Canada may opt in.

Organic growers who comply with growing standards that include no GM varieties and no pesticides have argued for years that pollen from GM canola is contaminating conventional fields across the Prairies. Organic farmers have given up growing canola because they cannot assure customers the crops are GM-free, identifying Roundup Ready and Liberty Link canola as the organic canola market destroyers.

According to SOD president Arnold Taylor, the release of GM wheat would be devastating, as it is organic producers' largest export.

The suit states that the genetic modifications amount to pollutants, which have damaged organic farming through being discharged into the environment, under the Environmental Management Protection Act of Saskatchewan. It also claims that farmers buying Roundup Ready or Liberty Link canola seed were not warned about the potential harm to neighboring crops and that farmers were not warned to provide buffer zones between GM canola and other crops.