March 30, 2015
Canola is one of the four genetically engineered crops grown in Canada. Canola is Canada's most second valuable crop, after wheat. Almost all the canola grown in Canada is genetically engineered. Widespread contamination from GE canola has eliminated organic canola in most areas of Canada (non-GE canola is grown on Prince Edward Island for export to Japan).
In the 1970's public sector scientists and plant breeders in Canada developed canola when they bred out the “harmful” components of rapeseed through the slow process of traditional selection breeding. (Rapeseed is a member of the highly diversified brassica family, along with the mustards, brussels sprouts, cabbage and turnips. It was not considered edible because it contained high levels of glucosinolates and eurucic acid.) In 1995 the first genetically engineered canola was introduced on to the Canadian market - this was the first GE crop released in Canada. For information on the origins of canola: The Rape of Canola, Brewster Kneen, NC Press, 1992.
Organic Farmers Seek Compensation
Media release, Saskatoon, April 16, 2008
Individual action not the way to go: organic farmers.
Today Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin have elected not to proceed with their individual claims against Monsanto and Bayer, after having the courts deny them access to the class action procedure as a means to seek compensation for losses resulting from the contamination of certified organic fields and crops by genetically modified canola.
The question of liability of corporations for genetic contamination remains unresolved.
The court case on behalf of all certified organic farmers in Saskatchewan began in 2002 and was instrumental in bringing public attention to the liability issues surrounding GMO contamination. The organic farmers sought an injunction to prevent the introduction of GMO wheat. Monsanto withdrew its plans to introduce Roundup Ready wheat in 2004. The farmers continued their action to seek redress for losses due to the virtual elimination of organic canola as a crop due to widespread contamination of seed stock, as well as for losses due to unwanted GMO canola plants contaminating organic fields. During the course of their legal action no new GMO crops were introduced into Canadian agriculture.
Class action legislation is an important tool for groups of citizens to gain access to justice. When denied the benefit of class action procedure, individuals are unfairly pitted against large multinational corporations that have enormous resources. However, Hoffman and Beaudoin, along with fellow organic farmers, remain committed to protecting the right to grow GMO free crops, and the right to eat GMO free food.
“I believe our case has raised awareness around the impacts of products released into the environment,” says Larry Hoffman. “We will work to further address those issues in the future.”
“We are closing a chapter, but not the book. We will challenge Monsanto and Bayer for the liberty, freedom and right to grow GMO free crops. We want to be able to save and use our own seed,” stated Dale Beaudoin. “The courts of the land failed to see our side of the story on how we needed canola in our rotation of crops. I was proud along with my co-partner, to represent organic farmers in this legal action. Just as in the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David has his moment of victory. Someday we, the organic farmers, will receive the justice we deserve.”
For more information see www.saskorganic.com/oapf
Supreme Court turns down Saskatchewan organic grain farmers, December 13, 2007
Organic Farmers assess options as Supreme Court turns down appeal
Today the Supreme Court of Canada turned down the Saskatchewan certified organic farmers appeal regarding their application to certify their claim as a class action under Saskatchewan law. The farmers were seeking class action status in order to pursue their claim for losses due to contamination of certified organic crops and fields by GMO canola owned by Monsanto Canada and Bayer Crop Science.
Plaintiff Larry Hoffman said “We are very disappointed that the Supreme Court was not willing to hear our arguments. We will be taking some time to consider our options. The fact of GMO contamination and the reality of losses we organic farmers suffer because of it have not gone away. We will continue fighting to protect the right to farm GMO free and the right to eat GMO free”
Saskatchewan organic grain farmers file Supreme Court application August 1, 2007
In 2002, Saskatchewan's certified organic farmers initiated a legal action taking Monsanto and Bayer Crop Science to court to stop genetically engineered wheat and to get compensation for losses due to genetic contamination of their certified organic crops and fields by the two companies' genetically engineered canola. On August 1, 2007 the farmers filed papers with the Supreme Court of Canada seeking leave to appeal the May 2, 2007 Saskatchewan Appeal Court decision which denied them class action status under Saskatchewan's legislation. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal, and it is successful, the case will be certified as a Class Action, allowing the farmers to go to trial on these issues.
The case involves legal questions of significant importance to the public, namely liability and rights associated with the development, marketing, sale and dispersal of GMOs, as well as public access to justice through class certification. The prevalence of open-pollinating GM crops on the landscape is a matter of significant environmental and public interest. These issues transcend provincial or territorial boundaries, as organic farmers in Saskatchewan can no longer grow and sell certified organic canola as a crop.
“Taking on the Hoffman [SOD] case would allow the court to provide much-needed guidance to lower courts, and to regulators, on how to put these environmental principles into action in the context of biotechnology and biodiversity.” from Commentary by Jeremy de Beer and Heather McLeod-Kilmurra, Lawyers Weekly, October 5, 2007
The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate is the incorporated non-profit organization democratically representing Saskatchewan's Certified Organic farmers, and is a member of CBAN. SOD's Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee is providing support to this legal action. For more information see www.saskorganic.com/oapf