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Profile: James Vancha
James Vancha was a participant or observer in the following events:
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 ; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 24-25 ]
Aaron Mitchell, Monsanto’s lead investigator in the Percy Schmeiser case, obtains a back-up sample set of the canola pods that were collected from Schmeiser’s property the previous summer (see August 12, 1998) from James Vancha who has been storing the pods in his freezer. Mitchell takes the seeds to Leon Perehudoff of Prairie Plant Systems who assists him with the grow-out test. Perehudoff will later testify in court that the seeds he receives are clean, though the original sample set of canola pods contained debris. Mitchell claims that he cleaned the seeds by hand even though there would have been no reason to do so in order to grow the seeds. When he is later asked in court to explain how he did this, he will respond that he did it by hand and that it took him about an hour. Another witness, Lyle Friesen, a plant biologist at the University, will testify that the task should have taken “days” to do by hand. All of the seeds included in Mitchell’s grow-out test germinate despite the fact that neither Monsanto’s St. Louis lab nor Friesen (see (August 26, 1999)) are able to so because the seeds were improperly stored and/or moldy. After the plants have grown, Mitchell takes them away to spray them and then later returns with them so he and Perehudoff can count the survivors. For one of the samples, he records an impossible survivor rate of 106 percent—there are apparently more plants in the sample after the spraying than there were before. He then averages this percentage rate with results from the other samples to come up with an average survival rate of 92-96 percent, which Monsanto will later cite as the percentage of Roundup Ready Canola plants in Schmeiser’s 1998 fields. As Schmeiser’s lawyer will later note in court, the samples were not collected using a methodology that would have ensured that the composition of the samples were representative of the composition of the fields. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 23-25 ]
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