Percy Schmeiser

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Percy Schmeiser
PercySchmeiser2.jpg
Percy Schmeiser in Stuttgart (2008);
MLA for Watrous
In office
19671971
Preceded byHans Broten
Succeeded byDonald Cody
Personal details
Born(1931-01-05)January 5, 1931
Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada
DiedOctober 13, 2020(2020-10-13) (aged 89)
Political partySaskatchewan Liberal Party
OccupationFarmer
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Percy Schmeiser (5 January 1931 – 13 October 2020) was a Canadian businessman, farmer, and politician. In 1954, he took over the operations of the family owned farm, gas station, and farm equipment dealership. He renamed the farm equipment dealership Schmeiser's Garage and added a second farm equipment dealership in Humboldt, Saskatchewan (Central Farm Sales) in 1986 and oversaw their operations until their sale in 2003.

He became an international symbol and spokesperson for independent farmers' rights and the regulation of transgenic crops during his protracted legal battle with multinational agrichemical company Monsanto. While farming, he specialized in breeding and growing canola, field peas, mustard, and wheat. He is the subject of the 2009 film David Versus Monsanto[1] and the 2020 film Percy.

Monsanto v. Schmeiser[edit]

In 1997, Schmeiser found volunteer canola plants and a number of weeds growing along the road in one of his fields. He testified that he sprayed these weeds in what is commonly known as a "spring burn." This practice eliminates weeds prior to planting of the crop, as weeds take valuable moisture away from the crop during germination. Schmeiser surprisingly found that a number of these volunteer canola plants had survived after the spring burn, potentially meaning they had developed a resistance to chemicals. As it was only the second year that Roundup Ready canola was available for use, this was highly unusual.[2] He testified that his intention all along was to plant canola in that field as it was fallow (not planted the year before), as it was part of his crop rotation to prevent disease. In seeking the potential of the largest return, he typically planted canola in a fallow field. When he then harvested that crop approximately 90 days later, the thought that any other part of his field may be contaminated with Roundup Ready canola was the furthest thing from his mind.

Following farmers' long standing rights to save and use their own seed, Schmeiser saved all of canola from that and his other fields and kept a small amount aside for planting in 1998. The rest of his canola was sold to a nearby processing plant.[2] Without Schmeiser's permission or knowledge, Monsanto trespassed onto his fields and took samples of his canola plants during the first stage of germination.[3] Monsanto then approached him to pay a "technology use fee" for using Monsanto's patented technology without a license. Schmeiser refused, stating that there was no intent to use Monsanto's product, that he didn't spray his fields with Roundup (the only benefit of Roundup Ready canola) and claimed that the actual seed was his because it was grown on his land. After demands and threats, Monsanto sued Schmeiser for patent infringement on August 6, 1998.[2]

For the next several years, the case traveled through the Canadian court system. The initial focus of Monsanto's action was that they were seeking $15/acre (1030acres X $15. = $15k) plus costs, as they claimed Schmeiser had Monsanto's technology in his possession without paying for it, even though the court found that Schmeiser did not spray any of his canola with Roundup. Monsanto stated that this was immaterial; as he had their technology on his fields. Over time, Monsanto changed their approach that the case was done on principle, not financial; solely that they had a valid patent, and they would use a valid patent to sue other farmers.[4]

Meanwhile, Schmeiser became a popular figure among those opposed to genetic engineering. He accepted speaking engagements around the world. Schmeiser continued to face threats and harassment from Robertson Investigations;[3] a firm hired by Monsanto to enforce their patent.[5] Ultimately, in a split decision from the Supreme Court, Schmeiser won a 9–0 ruling that he did not have to pay Monsanto their technology-use fee, damages, or costs. The court ruled that Schmeiser did not receive any benefit from Monsanto's technology, but still ruled in a 5–4 decision that Monsanto had a valid patent, and that unintentional possession didn't matter, thus Schmeiser infringed on the patent.[6]

A film about Schmeiser's fight with Monsanto, with Academy Award winner Christopher Walken as Schmeiser, was released the week before Schmeiser's death on October 13, 2020.[7][8][9]

Schmeiser v. Monsanto[edit]

On August 11, 1999, Schmeiser filed a separate lawsuit against Monsanto for ten million dollars for "libel, trespass, and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready Canola".[10] As of 2007, Schmeiser had not started to prosecute that lawsuit.[11]:58

In 2002 Schmeiser's wife, Louise Schmeiser, filed suit against Monsanto for $140 plus costs to remove contamination of her organic garden with volunteer GM canola; the case was dismissed.[12]

Schmeiser again discovered Roundup Ready Canola growing in his fields in 2005, even though canola had not been planted in that particular field since 1998. He contacted Monsanto to have the company remove it, but when Monsanto conditioned doing so on Schmeiser signing a confidentiality agreement and a release from litigation, Schmeiser had the cleanup done and billed Monsanto for the $660 cost. When Monsanto refused to pay, Schmeiser sued in small claims court.[13] On March 19, 2008 Monsanto settled out of court, paying the $660 without stipulation.[14]

Other accomplishments[edit]

Schmeiser spent over 40 years in various political roles and community service. He served as mayor of Bruno from 1966 to 1983, and also as member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan for the Watrous constituency for the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan from 1967 to 1971.[15] Schmeiser was elected again as a town Councillor of Bruno in 2003 and served as the deputy mayor until 2009.[16]

While serving in the provincial legislature from 1967 to 1971, Schmeiser was on the MLA committee that selected Saskatchewan's flag.[17]

Schmeiser was the recipient of the Merit Award for Dealer of the Year in 1984 by the Saskatchewan Manitoba Implement Dealers Association. He was appointed to Saskatchewan's Real Estate Commission in 1993 and served until 1999. In 2000, he received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for working for the good of society. In 2007, Percy Schmeiser and Louise Schmeiser were named winners of the Right Livelihood Award (often referred to as the alternative Nobel Prize):

... for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers' rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws.[18]

Death[edit]

Schmeiser died on October 13, 2020 at the age of 89 from Parkinson's disease.[19]

Quotes[edit]

Now, at 70, I am involved with this fight with Monsanto. I stood up to them because a farmer should never give up the right to use his own seed. I felt very strongly about it because my grandparents came here from Europe in late 1890s and early 1900s to open this land, to be free, and to grow what they wanted to grow. Now we are going back to a feudal system that they left because they were not free—basically we are becoming serfs of the land.

— Percy Schmeiser in an interview with Acres USA[20]

Farmers should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice. I believe that this ruling is an injustice and Parliament must act to ensure that farmers' rights are protected. The playing field between farmer rights and the bio-tech companies rights has been tilted towards the companies with this decision.[21]

I have always campaigned on the right of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed. This is what I have been doing for the last 50 years. I will continue to support any efforts to strengthen the rights of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed.[21]

In film[edit]

  • The Future of Food – 2004[22]
  • GMO Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser – 2005[23]
  • Percy Schmeiser : David versus Monsanto – 2009[24][25]
  • Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs – 2012[26][27]
  • Seeds of Freedom – 2012[28][29]
  • Percy – 2020

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Journeyman Pictures : documentaries : David Vs Monsanto". Journeyman.tv. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Federal court of Canada. Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser Date: 20010329 Docket: T-1593-98. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "How Monsanto harasses farmers/GM-free zones for Oz". gmwatch.org. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  4. ^ http://www.merid.org/en/Content/News_Services/Food_Security_and_AgBiotech_News/Articles/2001/07/20/Monsanto_Tangles_With_More_Canadian_Farmers_On_Licensing.aspx,
  5. ^ "European criminal investigators closing in on Monsanto's "black ops" unit that targeted journalists, regulators and lawmakers". Monsanto News. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Canadian Supreme Court Decision Archived September 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci in Winnipeg to shoot movie based on Sask. farmer's fight with Monsanto". CBC News. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  8. ^ Johnson, Clark (September 16, 2020), Percy (Biography, Drama), Pathy Aiyar, Monique Alvarez, Adam Beach, Zach Braff, Inferno Pictures Inc., May Street Productions, Scythia Films, retrieved October 24, 2020
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (September 5, 2018). "Film News Roundup: Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci to Star in Farming Drama 'Percy'". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  10. ^ Adrian Ewins for the Western Producer. August 19, 1999 Legal battle over patented canola set for next June
  11. ^ Peter W. B. Phillips. Farmers' Privilege and Patented Seeds. Chapter 3 in Accessing and Sharing the Benefits of the Genomics Revolution eds. Peter W. B. Phillips, Chika B. Onwuekwe. Springer, 2007
  12. ^ Sean Pratt for the Western Producer. June 30, 2005 Schmeisers lose again to Monsanto in GM case
  13. ^ Sean Pratt for the Western Producer. May 31, 2007 by Sean Pratt Schmeiser renews Monsanto battle
  14. ^ Hartley, Matt (March 20, 2008). "Grain Farmer Claims Moral Victory in Seed Battle Against Monsanto". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  15. ^ [1] Archived October 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Percy and Louise Schmeiser". Right Livelihood Award. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  17. ^ "Flying high: Saskatchewan flag celebrates 50 years". Regina Leader Post. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  18. ^ "Right Livelihood Award: 2007 – Percy & Louise Schmeiser". Rightlivelihood.org. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
  19. ^ "Percy Schmeiser, farmer known for fight against Monsanto, dead at 89". CBC. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  20. ^ Acres USA (January 2002). "Facing Down Goliath: One Farmer's Battle with a GM Giant". Acres USA. 32 (1): 28.
  21. ^ a b "Monsanto vs Schmeiser". Percyschmeiser.com. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  22. ^ Morgan Spurlock Presents on May 30, 2004 :The Future of Food
  23. ^ FluxRostrum on June 12, 2005 Fluxview USA: GMO Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser
  24. ^ Democracy Now http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/17/percy_schmeiser_vs_monsanto_the_story Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto: The Story of a Canadian Farmer’s Fight to Defend the Rights of Farmers and the Future of Seeds
  25. ^ World Cat Percy Schmeiser : David versus Monsanto. My father's garden. Sekem : born of the sun
  26. ^ Enlightened Consciousness Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMO’s – FULL MOVIE Yvonne Holterman – April 4, 2015
  27. ^ "Seeds of Death, Unveiling the Lies of GMOs – Dharma Documentaries". Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Edward Goldsmith Website Seeds of Freedom (2012) by The Editors · June 15, 2012 Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Pambazuka News New film 'Seeds of Freedom' raises global voices against GM Press release 2012-05-31, Issue 587

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]