Volume 29, Number 1

Fine Print

I used to spray canola oil
to cook up anything that fit
a frying pan, from chicken to eggs,
even read the ingredients—canola oil
plus soy lecithin and dimethyl—
not that I knew what they were, but
the shorter the list the better, I thought,
and plus it should lower cholesterol.

Then I heard from Kohlman,
who planted canola for years and profited,
but last year tried the Roundup Ready
genetically-modified seed, and this year
canola volunteered its yellow flowers
throughout his durum.

Only then did he read the terms of sale
on last year’s seed bags and contract,
forbidding him to save the seed
from that year’s crop,
or sell or plant it.

So the seed he didn’t plant
but came up in a full invasion
of his durum wheat belonged
to Monsanto, and the company could sue
for patent infringement,
and enter his land to collect the evidence
of his genetic piracy—no matter
if it came up unbidden
out of the soil of his back forty
like some science fiction creature.

Kohlman called the company, waited
on hold for an hour (and him with haying,
and repairs to make on the combine), but never
got a straight answer, so he and his boy
are pulling up the contraband
(which Roundup will not kill, of course)
by hand, and stowing it in plastic
bags that already take up most
of two machine sheds and a garage.

Every week he calls Monsanto
to ask when they will come to harvest
their Roundup Ready weeds and haul
them off to St. Louis, or they could hire
his truck and boy at two bucks fifty
a mile—he’d be glad to put it in writing.
So far the company has no response.

As for me, I’m back to olive oil
or creamery butter from here on in.

—Mark Trechock