A group of Canadian organic farmers launched a lawsuit against biotech giants Monsanto Co. and Aventis SA on Thursday seeking compensation for damages caused by genetically modified canola they say is blowing into their fields.
"Organic farmers in Saskatchewan have said that the time has come for this legal challenge and we're here today to let the world know that,"Marc Loiselle, a board member of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD), a group representing organic producers in the province, told a news conference.
"We claim that the two companies, Monsanto and Aventis, are responsible for GE (genetically engineered) contamination on multiple grounds and we're confident that this will be proven in the court of law," Loiselle told reporters in Saskatoon.
Two organic farmers filed the class action lawsuit in Saskatoon court on behalf of all organic farmers in the province, the heart of Canada's bread basket. The legal action is also aimed at halting plans to introduce transgenic wheat in the region.
There are about 1,000 organic growers in Saskatchewan, whose farms represent about 1 million acres (405,700 hectares). SOD alleges that genetically engineered crops threaten the environment and their industry."Any kind of science, whatever it is, if it's infringing on our rights, they don't have a right to do it", said Arnold Taylor, an organic grower and president of SOD. The amount of compensation being sought has yet to be determined, but Taylor estimates it will be "in the millions."
Organic producers say that pollen from GM canola, which is patented by Monsanto and Aventis, is blowing on to their fields, contaminating their crops and their seed supply, and driving away premium-paying customers, most of whom are in Europe.
"They're trying to make these companies pay for their losses that were sustained by them from having removed a crop, an entire crop from their selection of crops," Terry Zakreski, the farmers' lawyer told Reuters, noting that this is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind in Canada. "They want to stop them from introducing another crop that could economically destroy them if it's allowed to happen," said Zakreski.
Agricultural sciences company, Monsanto, which produces Roundup Ready canola, one of the most widely grown GM varieties, has recently conducted field trials across Western Canada to develop genetically modified Roundup Ready wheat.