Schmeiser, Percy (1931-)

Percy Schmeiser.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B7190

Percy Schmeiser, a farmer and implement agent from Bruno, Saskatchewan, has been a public figure most of his life, serving as mayor of the town of Bruno from 1966 to 1983 and as a member of the provincial Legislative Assembly for the Watrous constituency from 1967 to 1971. However, he gained world fame in 1998 over his legal battle with seed and chemical corporation Monsanto. Schmeiser was sued and eventually convicted of violating the patent on a genetic sequence contained in canola plants developed and owned by Monsanto; he was charged with obtaining and using the seed without signing a contract and paying the required fees to Monsanto. While Schmeiser was not the only farmer in Canada sued by Monsanto for this patent infraction, his case was the most public, as he chose not to pay the fine and became the first farmer to challenge the charge through the Canadian court system. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in favour of Monsanto. The increased use of biotechnology in plant breeding has led private firms such as Monsanto to become plant breeders and seed suppliers, and has therefore necessitated new ways to make a profit in an area where none was previously required. The case of Schmeiser and Monsanto publicized how these new means of profit protection - through patents and legal contracts with farmers - function and hold up legally when challenged.

Stephen Weiss