Christopher Walken Stars in ‘Percy’ Film About Monsanto
The media spotlight on Big Ag giant, Monsanto, continues to highlight the company's legal battles and controversies—mainly around glyphosate, the number one weed killer in the world. This time, it’s a new film starring Christopher Walken, called Percy. The film is about a Canadian farmer who goes up against the agrochemical and agricultural biotech corporation, Monsanto, based on the real-life tale of Percy Schmeiser and his fight for farmers’ rights. Walken is joined in Percy by Christina Ricci, who plays a fictional environmentalist, and Zach Braff, who plays Schmeiser’s lawyer. (1, 2, 3)
"It's an 'Everyman story,'” Clark Johnson, the director of Percy, told CBC News. “I mean it's cliché to say David and Goliath, but it's a universal story, and I hope the audience really connects to the idea of this guy putting everything on the line for what he felt was right and true." (2)
Percy Schmeiser’s “everyman story” unfolded in the late 1990s. Schmeiser, a Saskatchewan farmer, had been growing and breeding his own variety of canola for decades. Some surrounding farms had started growing Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant canola crops in their fields. Monsanto had engineered these seeds to tolerate their herbicide, known as Roundup, and the seeds were called “Roundup Ready”. Monsanto required the farmers planting their seed technology to sign a license agreement saying that they wouldn’t save seeds from one year to use in the future. (3, 4)
Schmeiser was in the habit of saving seeds from his fields. In 1997, he found Roundup Ready canola in some of his fields. Since he had not entered into a license agreement with Monsanto, he wasn’t worried about saving the seeds from his fields for future use. So he saved seeds from one of his fields to plant in 1998. (3, 4)
Monsanto Takes Farmer to Court
That year, Monsanto found their glyphosate-tolerant genetic material in Schmeiser’s canola plants. Monsanto took Schmeiser to court for patent infringement, which found him guilty of "selling or otherwise depriving the plaintiffs [Monsanto] of their exclusive right to use plants which the defendants [Schmeiser] know or ought to know are Roundup tolerant or using the seeds from such plants." (3, 4)
The court ordered Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $140,000 in damages and legal costs. He responded by taking the case to the appeals court, but it upheld the original ruling. So the farmer decided to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. (3, 4)
In his Supreme Court case, Schmeiser argued that Monsanto did not have a valid patent on their seeds. Because of this, he said, he should not be responsible for any damages. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Schmeiser, saying that Monsanto’s patent was valid. (3, 4)
However, Schmeiser did find some victory in the Supreme Court’s decision. The court ruled that he would not have to pay damages or court costs to Monsanto. Although he did infringe on their patent when he used Roundup Ready canola seeds, he did not spray his fields with glyphosate and didn’t benefit from the seed technology. The court said that Schmeiser did not make any more profits from Monsanto’s seeds than if he had planted another type of canola, so he did not owe them any money. (3, 4)
Controversy Around Monsanto Case
Schmeiser’s case was significant because it was one of the first rulings on issues around the production of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). At the time, the farming community was split on the issue. The film Percy portrays angry neighbors calling Schmeiser a “thief” and ostracizing him and his wife, Louise. Their son, John, told CBC News that this is an accurate depiction of what happened in real life. "Really, at the end of the day,” John said, “their story is about defending themselves." (3, 4)
But other farmers were on Schmeiser’s side. "My parents received thousands of letters from other farmers who were either in the same situation or didn't like what Monsanto was doing," said John. He added that his mother responded to every letter they received. (3)
Another farmer, John Lewis, told CBC News that, despite the controversy, Schmeiser earned respect in the farming community for his viewpoint and holding his ground. In the 1990s, a company having proprietary rights to genetically-modified organisms was a new concept. There was no legal precedent for a case like this, and rules needed to be set in place. (3)
"He took it to court. He didn't win. But at the same time, it was something that had to be done. It set the rules," Lewis said in an interview with CBC News. "And really, since then the canola industry has expanded and it really is a Canadian success story." (3)
Protection from Glyphosate Exposure
The Roundup Ready seeds that Monsanto and Schmeiser’s case is built around were developed by the agrochemical company to be resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills most plants. Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is glyphosate-based, so they developed glyphosate-resistant seeds so large amounts of their herbicide could be used on crops. (3, 5)
People can come into contact with glyphosate through environmental exposure. Possible side effects of exposure to glyphosate include: (5)
- eye or skin irritation
- nose and throat irritation
- increased saliva
- burns in the mouth and throat
- fatalities are possible in cases of intentional ingestion
Fortunately, there’s a detoxification supplement that can help with exposure to pesticides and environmental toxins. GlyphoCleanse is a daily detox and defense formula designed to address pesticides and other agricultural and environmental toxins, with additional support for healthy digestion. Targeted ingredients help eliminate these agricultural and environmental toxins and block their absorption and storage throughout the body.*
- Sodium alginate
- Unmodified citrus pectin
This advanced detox formula is designed for everyday use to remove common agricultural and environmental toxins from the body and prevent them from being stored throughout the body.*
As news about glyphosate and its potential health effects continues to increase, we’re learning more about the far-reaching implications of this widespread toxin—and importantly, what we can do about it for long-term health.
- Percy. Mongrel Media. http://www.mongrelmedia.com/index.php/filmlink?id=6ac973ae-0fa7-e811-944b-0ad9f5e1f797 Accessed November 17, 2020.
- N'Duka A. Zach Braff Joins Christopher Walken & Christina Ricci In 'Percy'. Deadline. https://deadline.com/2018/09/zach-braff-christopher-walken-christina-ricci-percy-movie-1202467858/ Published September 20, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2020.
- Allen B. New movie about Sask. farmer's battle with Monsanto dredges up old fight over fact vs. fiction | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/percy-movie-farmers-1.5748575 Published October 5, 2020. Accessed November 17, 2020.
- Ray DE. Ray Monsanto vs. Percy Schmeiser: The Canadian Supreme Court Rules. PolicyPennings by Dr. Daryll E. . http://www.agpolicy.org/weekpdf/202.pdf Accessed November 17, 2020.
- Glyphosate. National Pesticide Information Center. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html Accessed November 17, 2020.