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'Percy vs. Goliath' Is a Cautionary Tale of Corporate Control in Agriculture

A Canadian-American director with roots in the civil rights movement spotlights the seed sovereignty maverick who took on Monsanto in the 1990s.

In 1998, Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer on the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada received a letter from the agricultural biotech company Monsanto, claiming that he was growing its patented seeds in his fields without a license. Genetically modified (or GMO) seeds were relatively new to the market, and the company’s Roundup Ready canola was resistant to Roundup, the herbicide Monsanto also sold. The new seeds came with the promise of increased yields and reduced pesticide use.

But Schmeiser and his wife, Louise, were seed savers, and unlike more than hundreds of other farmers threatened with a corporate lawsuit, they didn’t settle. Instead, they fought for the right to grow their own seed, claiming that the genetic material from Monsanto found on their farm had blown there on the wind. 

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