Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto

Here’s the story.

Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada whose livelihood is his canola fields. Percy inherited the farm from his parents and for over 40 years has been cross- breeding and the like to produce his own perfect seed.

Monsanto is a bio- tech engineering company that by “using the tools of modern biology, [they] help farmers grow more yield sustainably so they can produce more and conserve more“. They are the top providers of GMO’s. Their leading product, Roundup Ready, had been the top- selling herbicide since 1980. With the onset of genetic technology, Monsanto was able to construct Roundup Ready seeds that are resistant to the herbicide so as not to hurt the crop, only kill the weeds.

Unnanounced to Percy, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds found their way on his fields. He claims that wind, his neighbor’s Roundup crop, and trucks driving by the main road he lives on with inadequate covering all contributed crop contamination with the genetically modified seeds. Percy became aware of the presence of these seeds after spraying the Roundup herbicide, and not killing the seeds, although he did not tell Monsanto nor did he take any measures to remove the seeds. “Following an anonymous tip, Monsanto’s investigators confirmed the presence of plants bearing the gene in Schmesier’s fields” and because of this Monsanto filed a lawsuit against him for use of their seeds without permission.

When using Monsanto’s seeds, the farmer must first sign an agreement that among many other things they will buy new seeds every year and not share seeds (a common practice among farmers).

Percy Schmeiser is a seed saver and always has been. Not once has he signed an agreement with Monsanto nor purchased any of their seeds. Completely caught off guard with this attack at his fields, Percy fought back. And that’s what makes this all too common case, stick out.Accepting donations from other farmers and really anyone willing, Percy and his wife spent much of their fortune fighting for their cause and even taking the case all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court. The claim was that since Percy was supposedly using the seeds, he should have to pay the company around $200,000 in infringement costs plus $15 for every acre of his land, EVEN IF the seeds had landed their accidently. Percy believed that it was not his fault that the seeds had landed on his farm and he should not be held accountable.

Percy took many standpoints to win his case; attacking the Monsanto’s ability to patent genes, his ownership of the seeds since they were now on his land, and his innocence through it all. The court ruled in somewhat of a draw. They determined that the Monsanto patent is valid, but since Percy did not benefit from the seeds he would not have to pay infringement costs. He did, however, have to pay the requested injunction (all totaling around $145, 450 Canadian dollars).

Monsanto takes the side that Percy Schmeiser is “simply a patent infringer who knows how to tell a good story“. They claim that since majority of his crop was the GM seed, that he must have knew that he was continually saving the engineered seed and reusing it without permission or a license.

This story is important not only because of its popularity when talking of genetically engineered technology, but because people are concerned with the influence and control Monsanto has on seeds. Percy is quoted as saying, “If I would go to St. Louis and contaminate their plots- destroy what they have worked on for 40 years- I think I would be put in jail“. With control over plants genes, it leaves one to wonder what’s in store for the future.