Almost everyone in agriculture has heard of Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser, a folk hero of the anti-GMO movement who has spent two decades fighting Monsanto in court. He’s been the subject of a handful of film projects in the past, most notably “David versus Monsanto” in 2009. Well, the silver screen is again taking on his cause with a movie titled “Percy” — starring one of Hollywood’s most celebrated (yet creepy) performers, Christopher Walken, in the title role.
According to a press release about this film, it, too, will focus on the side of Schmeiser and how he found himself “representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle.”
Of course, the reality of the legal fight is much more nuanced than the little guy and his feelings toward corporate greed.
Yet because of the use of a well-known Canadian production company (Scythia Films), as well as other upper-tier stars (Christinia Ricci as anti-GMO activist Rebecca Salcau, and Adam Beach as a neighbor farmer) cast in the film, it’s easy to assume that this picture will have a broad reach.
For those not familiar with the details of the Schmeiser saga, the farmer took up his case against Monsanto in the late ’90s after claiming that Roundup Ready canola plants ended up in his field by accident. He, in turn, sprayed Roundup on that field and saved the seeds that he then replanted the following year. When he was approached by Monsanto to pay a licensing fee for the use of patented seeds, Schmeiser refused, saying that since the crops grew on his field initially without him planting them, then he had the rights to them.
The legal back and forth has become the stuff of legend.
Monsanto has even dedicated a whole page on the company website to Schmeiser, saying, “The truth is Percy Schmeiser is not a hero. He’s simply a patent infringer who knows how to tell a good story.”
Monsanto hadn’t asked Schmeiser to pay for any accidental growth of patented seeds on his property but rather for Schmeiser’s intentional use the following year of those biotech seeds.
“As indicated by the trial court in Canada, the seed was not blown in on the wind nor carried in by birds, and it didn’t spontaneously appear. Schmeiser knowingly planted this seed in his field without permission or license. By doing so, he used Monsanto’s patented technology without permission. In fact, the courts determined this in three separate decisions.”
It’s unclear how long production is expected to last or when the film will be released.