On Friday, Canada’s highest court closed the book on self-styled anti-biotech martyr Percy Schmeiser, ruling that he had, indeed, grown genetically modified canola without paying for it. Schmeiser had become an anti-corporate poster boy of late, raising a six-figure legal defense fund by insisting at activist gatherings that the biotech plants found on his farm were brought there against his will — presumably by seed-toting birds or a pollen-carrying stiff breeze. Nonsense. The maple-leaf Supremes let stand a lower court ruling that genetically modified plants covered over 96 percent of Schmeiser’s fields, a concentration that could only be the result of planting the seed on purpose. In what may be the understatement of the year, a defeated Schmeiser told the New York Times: “It’s not nearly the victory that we were looking for.” But don’t expect a dose of judicial truth to slow down the movement to demonize science-aided food that just might save a billion human lives.
The Council of Canadians (think Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen with earmuffs) was quick to issue a news release promising a “worldwide backlash against genetically engineered foods.” The Organic Consumers Association is promoting a press release that warns of “5 million Percy Schmeisers.” And Greenpeace took an interesting, if two-faced, approach. While Greenpeace Canada attempted to politely re-cast the Supreme Court’s decision in a more activist-friendly light, European Greenpeacers took matters into their own hands — physically blockading a ship bringing biotech grain into a Greek harbor. Meanwhile, a trio of French criminals were convicted of trashing a genetically modified crop field.
Expect more anti-biotech protests in the United States during the coming months, as activists plot to disrupt and forcibly “shut down” a June biotechnology convention in San Francisco. Last year’s major anti-biotech protest event brought Percy Schmeiser to St. Louis. Odds are he’ll be in San Francisco this time around, along with assorted other activists who will claim, straight-faced, that food technology has no discernible impact on Third World hunger.
Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug said it best: “Extremists in the environmental movement, largely from rich nations and/or the privileged strata of society in poor nations, seem to be doing everything they can to stop scientific progress in its tracks.”