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Farmer faces giant chemical company in court

A landmark legal case that begins today pits a giant chemical company guarding its genetically modified canola against a Saskatchewan farmer protecting his livelihood.

Food giant Monsanto is suing farmer Percy Schmeiser for growing genetically modified canola without the company's permission.

Monsanto claims Schmeiser used its "Roundup Ready" canola on his farm near Bruno in the late '90s. The canola is genetically engineered so it's immune to a popular herbicide called Roundup.

The company lays down strict rules when it sells Roundup Ready. Farmers who buy it are not allowed to use the Monsanto seeds from one crop to grow another crop, as farmers traditionally do. Instead, they must buy new seeds from Monsanto every year.

Two years ago, Monsanto investigators found Roundup Ready on Schmeiser's farm and accused him of stealing it. But Schmeiser insists the wind likely blew the seeds onto his property.

He's fought back in the form of a countersuit against Monsanto, claiming its altered seed contaminated his crops.

Mediation failed to settle the dispute. Monsanto has spent millions developing the special canola and has patented it. But if loses the case, it won't be able to protect its product or maintain its monopoly in the market.

The trial will likely have an impact on the future of genetically modified organisms, which are still being hotly debated around the world.

The trial that begins today is expected to last three weeks.

Protesters to target GM foods conference

Both sides of the genetically modified foods debate, arguing for either the safety or the risk of GM foods, will be in Toronto Tuesday for an international meeting.

Seven hundred delegates are expected at a conference on agricultural biotechnology. Among topics like new plant development, public relations is at the top of the agenda. The delegates want to assure the public that the plants with altered DNA are safe.

But environmental group Greenpeace points out scientists still don't know enough about the risks. That's why its protesters will be at the conference in the latest Canadian demonstration against GM foods.

Across the world, the debate on GM foods is heating up. Last week, protestors started a riot in Genoa, Italy when they tried to interrupt a meeting of the international biotechnology industry.

"I think we'll be a little more polite than the Italians were last week when 5,000 people had heavy clashes with the police," says Michael Khoo of Greenpeace. "But in a Canadian way, people will make their opinions known and felt."

-- viewer (, June 05, 2000

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