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Context of '1996 and After: Monsanto-Hired Investigators Help Company Enforce ‘Technology Use Agreement’'

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To enforce its “Technology Use Agreement” (see 1996), Monsanto sends detectives into farming communities to ensure that all fields planted with its patented seeds have been paid for. Farmers call them the “Monsanto police.” In the US, Monsanto has a contract with Pinkerton Security and Consulting. In Canada, the company uses Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd., which employs a team of former Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Monsanto also encourages farmers to use a toll-free “tip line” to blow the whistle on noncompliant neighbors. According to one farmer, Monsanto promises to reward snitchers with a leather jacket, an allegation that Monsanto denies. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999] Another tactic employed by the company is to place radio ads broadcasting the names of growers caught illegally planting Monsanto’s seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Monsanto threatens legal action against any farmer who it believes has violated the agreement. Suing one’s own customers “is a little touchy,” Karen Marshall, a Monsanto spokeswoman, concedes, adding that after spending so much money on research, Monsanto doesn’t want “to give the technology away.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Craig Evans, the head of Monsanto’s Canadian biotechnology operation in Winnipeg, says: “At the end of the day if we don’t enforce our patent rights, the potential for new technology to come forward to maintain the competitiveness of the industry could disappear, because if you can’t get the return, then you’re going to take your technology somewhere else. We’re just trying to be fair. All I’m trying to do is fulfill the promise of the growers who said, ‘Monsanto, I’m willing to pay you for your technology as long as everyone’s paying.’” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Critics say Monsanto’s actions are tearing away at the social fabric that has traditionally held farming communities together. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/14/2005] “Farmers here are calling it a reign of terror,” according to canola farmer Percy Schmeiser. “Everyone’s looking at each other and asking, ‘Did my neighbor say something?’” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] “Our rural communities are being turned into corporate police states and farmers are being turned into criminals,” Hope Shand, research director of Rural Advancement Foundation International, explains to the Washington Post in 1999. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Pinkerton Security and Consulting, Percy Schmeiser, Craig Evans, Karen Marshall, Hope Shand

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Wayne Derbyshire, an investigator with Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, goes to Percy Schmeiser’s farm to obtain plant samples on behalf of Monsanto. Monsanto has hired Robinson Investigation to obtain the samples because the company believes that Schmeiser planted its patent-protected seeds and that he illegally purchased them from a Monsanto-licensed farmer. Monsanto’s “Technology Use Agreement” (see 1996) prohibits licensed farmers from making patented seeds available to other growers. (Selling seeds under the table in this manner is referred to as “brown-bagging.”) [Washington Post, 5/2/1999; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 19 pdf file] One set of samples is taken from a field that later court testimony reveals may not have been Schmeiser’s. The second set of samples is taken from plants owned by Percy Schmeiser that are growing in the ditches and public right-of-way where Schmeiser earlier discovered the presence of Roundup-resistant canola (see Summer 1997). Derbyshire sends the samples to his boss, Mike Robinson, on August 27. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] When Schmeiser later learns of this sampling in 1998, he will accuse Robinson Investigation of trespassing (see March 1998). Farmers are permitted to grow and harvest crops in public right-of-ways, and on this basis, Schmeiser’s lawyer will later argue in court that the crops taken by Derbyshire were in fact property of Schmeiser. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 15-17 pdf file] Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, disputes Schmeiser’s allegation, telling the Washington Post in 1999 that it is not completely clear whether Derbyshire actually crossed Schmeiser’s property line. Angell also asserts that trespassing is neither a criminal nor a civil offense in Saskatchewan. [Washington Post, 5/2/1999]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Monsanto, Wayne Derbyshire, Philip Angell

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Mike Robinson, owner of a private investigation company that works for Monsanto, visits Percy Schmeiser at his farm. Schmeiser learns that Monsanto is investigating him and that an investigator working for Robinson took plant samples from his fields in 1997 (see August 18, 1997). Robinson says Monsanto suspects Schmeiser is illegally growing its patent-protected Roundup Ready Canola. Schmeiser accuses Robinson’s company of trespassing. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000; Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 21 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mike Robinson, Percy Schmeiser

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto secures a court order permitting the company to take plants from Percy Schmeiser’s canola fields. Monsanto believes that Schmeiser is illegally growing the company’s patent-protected Roundup Ready Canola. Schmeiser is aware that some of his canola is resistant to Roundup but denies that this is the result of any willful action on his part. He claims to have never purchased or otherwise obtained Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola pedigree seed. He thinks the presence of plants resistant to Roundup is the result of cross-pollination or seeds blown from a nearby farm or off passing grain trucks. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999] Monsanto, in a letter to the court dated August 12, says it will notify Schmeiser’s lawyer before entering onto Schmeiser’s property. The sample is to be collected in the presence of Schmeiser and split between Monsanto and Schmeiser so each party can have it tested separately. According to Schmeiser, Don Todd (Robinson Investigation) and James Vancha (Monsanto), arrive unannounced and do not allow him to accompany them. However, Todd and Vancha will dispute Schmeiser’s version of events in court testimony, saying the farmer had declined to participate because of a “bad leg.” Instructions contained in the court order do not specify that they use any sort of representative sampling technique that could be used to determine what percentage of Schmeiser’s canola plants are resistant to Roundup. Rather, since Monsanto is interested only in proving the presence of the patented gene in Schmeiser’s fields, Todd and Vancha are just asked to randomly collect a total of 54 samples from Schmeiser’s 9 fields (27 for Monsanto and 27 for Schmeiser). In spite of the fact that no method is employed to ensure that the composition of the samples are representative of the composition of the fields, Monsanto will later cite test results based on these samples when making assertions in court about the percentage of Roundup-resistant plants growing on Schmeiser’s farm (see January 1999) [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 21 pdf file; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 24-25 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Don Todd, James Vancha, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Investigators with Robinson Security visit canola fields farmed by Carlyle Moritz to look for evidence that he is illegally growing Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready Canola. They reportedly take samples from canola plants growing in a nearby right-of-way. Moritz, who works for Percy Schmeiser, rents the land from his mother. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Carlyle Moritz

Timeline Tags: Seeds


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