Percy Schmeiser

Percy Schmeiser (born January 5, 1931) is a businessman, farmer and politician from Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada. 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, SK (Central Farm Sales) in 1986 and oversaw their operations until their sale in 2003.

Percy Schmeiser
Percy Schmeiser in Stuttgart (2008);
MLA for Watrous
In office
1967  1971
Preceded byHans Broten
Succeeded byDonald Cody
Personal details
BornJanuary 5, 1930 (1930-01-05) (age 89)
Bruno, Saskatchewan
Political partySaskatchewan Liberal Party
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

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 was the subject of the 2009 film David Versus Monsanto.[1] and the 2019 movie Percy

Monsanto v. Schmeiser

In 1997, Percy 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 farmer's 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" 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 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;[5] a firm hired by Monsanto to enforce their patent.[6] 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.[7]

Schmeiser v. Monsanto

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".[8] As of 2007, Schmeiser had not started to prosecute that lawsuit.[9]:58

In 2002 Schmeiser's wife filed suit against Monsanto for $140 plus costs for costs to remove contamination of her organic garden with volunteer GM canola; the case was dismissed.[10]

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.[11] On March 19, 2008 Monsanto settled out of court, paying the $660 without stipulation.[12]

Other accomplishments

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.[13] Schmeiser was elected again as a town Councillor of Bruno in 2003 and served as the deputy mayor until 2009.

While serving in the provincial legislature from 1967 to 1971, Schmeiser was on the MLA committee that selected Saskatchewan's flag.[14]

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.[15]

In September 2018 it was announced that a movie based on Schmeiser's fight with Monsanto had started filming. Academy Award winner Christopher Walken[16] had signed on to play Schmeiser in the film. The film is slated for release in 2019. [17][18]


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[19]

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.[20]

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.[20]

In film

  • The Future of Food- 2004[21]
  • GMO Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser- 2005[22]
  • Percy Schmeiser : David versus Monsanto- 2009[23][24]
  • Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs – 2012[25][26]
  • Seeds of Freedom – 2012[27][28]
  • Percy – 2019[16]


  1. "Journeyman Pictures : documentaries : David Vs Monsanto". Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  2. Federal court of Canada. Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser Date: 20010329 Docket: T-1593-98. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  7. Canadian Supreme Court Decision Archived September 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Adrian Ewins for the Western Producer. August 19, 1999 Legal battle over patented canola set for next June
  9. 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
  10. Sean Pratt for the Western Producer. June 30, 2005 Schmeisers lose again to Monsanto in GM case
  11. Sean Pratt for the Western Producer. May 31, 2007 by Sean Pratt Schmeiser renews Monsanto battle
  12. Hartley, Matt (March 20, 2008). "Grain Farmer Claims Moral Victory in Seed Battle Against Monsanto". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  13. Archived October 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Right Livelihood Award: 2007 – Percy & Louise Schmeiser". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
  19. Acres USA (January 2002). "Facing Down Goliath: One Farmer's Battle with a GM Giant". Acres USA. 32 (1): 28.
  20. "Monsanto vs Schmeiser". Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  21. Morgan Spurlock Presents on May 30, 2004 :The Future of Food
  22. FluxRostrum on June 12, 2005 Fluxview USA: GMO Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser
  23. Democracy Now Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto: The Story of a Canadian Farmer’s Fight to Defend the Rights of Farmers and the Future of Seeds
  24. World Cat Percy Schmeiser : David versus Monsanto. My father's garden. Sekem : born of the sun
  25. Enlightened Consciousness Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMO’s – FULL MOVIE Yvonne Holterman – April 4, 2015
  26. Dharma Documentaries Seeds of Death, Unveiling the Lies of GMOs
  27. Edward Goldsmith Website Seeds of Freedom (2012) by The Editors · June 15, 2012
  28. Pambazuka News New film 'Seeds of Freedom' raises global voices against GM Press release 2012-05-31, Issue 587

Further reading

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