His name is Percy Schmeiser and he became the unlikely hero in a David vs Goliath battle of a small rural farmer fighting the huge multi-national Monsanto.
It began in 1998 when Schmeiser, farmer and farm equipment dealer, grew a crop of canola on his field. As it turned out, a portion of the crop was chemical and bio-tech giant Monsanto’s genetically modified “roundup ready” seed. The GMO canola had only been introduced into Canada in 1996, and Schmeiser said he collected some seeds from plants growing along a road in his property.
Schmeiser claimed the plants must have come from seeds blown onto his field from neighbouring farms. Monsanto claimed he deliberately used the seed and didn’t pay the patent fees. The ensuing lawsuits made it to the Supreme Court of Canada in a battle followed by environmentalists, farm groups, and industry around the world.
In the end, it was a draw, The Supreme Court ruled the farmer did use Monsanto’s product and so violated their patent, but that he didn’t have to pay damages and could therefore keep the profits from the crop and not have to pay Monsanto’s considerable legal costs.
The story had just become the subject of a Hollywood film called “Percy” which had just been in limited release last week.
This week it was announced that Percy Schmeiser has died on October 13, aged 89.
PERCY- trailer- youtube Mongrel Media
Well-known and respected in the small town of Bruno, and also in the wider agricultural community in the province of Saskatchewan he held local council positions and was Mayor of Bruno for some time as well as serving four years as a provincial legislator ending in 1971.
His lawyer described his experience with Monsanto and the legal battle as a very stressful time, but said Schmeiser was always upbeat.
After the legal battle, Schmeiser travelled widely as a speaker and advocate for farming issues, He was awarded the Mahatma Ghandi award in 2000 for working for the good of society and in 2007 he and his wife Louise received the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ for “their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws”.
Although he had just been the subject of this new Hollywood film, Schmeiser had been mentioned or was the subject of several earlier films and documentaries, Many of these short films can be seen on YouTube.