PERCY SCHMEISER RETURNS TO B.C. - SEPTEMBER 15-20
Internationally-Renowned Saskatchewan Farmer Continues His Journey of Warning
Farmers and Eaters of the Risks of Genetically Engineered Food.
KELOWNA, August 20 - It's not often that farmers reach celebrity status and between September 15-20, communities throughout the interior of the province will be welcoming one of the most celebrated farmers in the world - Percy Schmeiser.
Between 1998-2008, Saskatchewan's Percy and Louise Schmeiser have waged a classic David versus Goliath struggle against one of the most influential multinational agricultural corporations - Monsanto.
Their ongoing battles have reached such international recognition, that in December 2007, the Schmeisers became the recipients of the Right Livelihood Award; often referred to as the "alternative Nobel". The award was presented in honour of the Schmeisers' "courage in defending biodiversity and farmers' rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws".
Since the mid 1990s, the food supply of Canada has become increasingly dominated by genetically engineered (G.E.) foods. The process of transgenic engineering involves the placement of DNA from one species or kingdom into the cells of another. Such processes do not take place within nature or from conventional breeding and the technology expectedly continues to receive widespread global opposition. Canada remains among a small minority of countries who support such foods and has welcomed G.E. ingredients into our food supply. Canada even goes so far as to aggressively lobby other countries to do the same.
It is estimated that over three quarters of foods on grocery store shelves now contain G.E. ingredients. Most Canadians remain completely unaware of their presence. With the technology having not received any long-term human safety studies, Canadians have become the product of one of the largest human feeding experiments in history. The foods/ingredients that are most often genetically engineered are corn, soy, canola and cottonseed. These crops represent the foundation for most foods consumed today including soft drinks, breakfast cereals, oil-based foods, dairy, meat and eggs among others.
The genetic engineering of the food supply continues to expand. In 2008, G.E. sugar entered the food supply for the first time, and in early 2009, an industry-led campaign was launched to encourage the future introduction of G.E. wheat.
The Schmeiser's visit marks their second to B.C. in the past 14 months. In July 2008, Percy addressed audiences in Castlegar, Vancouver and Vancouver Island, where he urged communities there to protect the local food supply and support efforts to establish G.E. Free Zones (regions that could remain free of genetically engineered plants and trees). Since that visit the municipalities of Nelson, Rossland and Kaslo have all passed policies that oppose the cultivation of such experimental technologies. The groups hosting Percy on this tour will either be continuing their efforts to establish such zones and/or will be introducing the idea.
Among the many environmental and health concerns of G.E. foods, farmers' rights are also of great concern. When a plant is genetically engineered, it can then be patented. Once private ownership of the lifeform is established, the company then owns the plant regardless of where it ends up. This is of significant concern because G.E. plants can freely cross with non-G.E. varieties over long distances. In the Schmeisers' case, Monsanto's RoundUp Ready canola ended up in their fields of non-G.E. canola even though the Schmeisers had never purchased the G.E. seed. The Schmeisers, who had been saving seed for decades, were left to harvest seeds that were now owned by a multinational corporation. It didn't take long before they found themselves in a courtroom with a powerful corporation demanding that they pay the company royalties for having used their patented technologies (seeds).
This shocking example of the corporate control of our food supply is the clear direction in which our food system is heading.
Following years of legal battles, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-4 in favour of Monsanto in 2004. The decision sent shockwaves to farmers around the world.
The battle continued when another incident between Monsanto and the Schmeisers was sparked in 2005. This time, it was the Schmeisers challenging Monsanto, and this time, the Schmeisers were the victor. In March 2008, Monsanto paid the Schmeisers $660 in an out-of-court settlement. While the sum was small, the message was powerful, and the Schmeisers have since been touring the world sharing their story of this victory.
In July 2008, Percy Schmeiser helped launch the G.E. Free Kootenays campaign at a packed event in Castlegar. The campaign has been successfully working towards the establishment of a region that will remain free of genetically engineered plants and trees. As part of this latest return to B.C., Schmeiser will continue to lend his experience to farmers and eaters and further encourage the establishing of G.E. Free regions throughout the province.
Supporters: Society for a G.E. Free BC, Okanagan Greens Society, Okanagan College, FASNO, Shuswap Seed Savers, G.E. Free Kootenays, Kootenay Food Strategy Society, Deconstructing Dinner, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agriculture Society, Creston Food Action Coalition, Kootenay Country Store Co-operative
Dates / Venues:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Prince Charles Auditorium
223 18th Avenue S. Creston B.C.
7:00pm... Doors open 6:30
Admission by Donation
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Grand Forks Community Centre (USCC Hall)
6410 Community Centre Road
7:00pm... Doors open 6:30
Admission by Donation
Friday, September 18, 2009
Salmar Classic Theatre
360 Alexander Street NE, Salmon Arm, B.C.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Okanagan College - Lecture Theatre, 7000 College Way, Vernon, B.C.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
4th Annual Organic Okanagan Festival
@ Summerhill Pyramid Winery,
4870 Chute Lake Road, Kelowna, B.C.
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