Percy Schmeiser: David Versus Monsanto

2:45 p.m. Sunday, November 14 at Plaza Frontenac

Percy Schmeiser: David Versus Monsanto

Percy Schmeiser: David Versus Monsanto
Directed by Bertram Verhaag

This German documentary is an indictment of St. Louis-based Monsanto, focused on the company's legal battle with Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser. The pink-cheeked, plainspoken Schmeiser tells how he first discovered that genetically modified canola seeds were infiltrating his crop — only to get sued by the seeds' designer, Monsanto, for patent infringement. Sounds crazy, yes, but it gets a zillion times worse: Monsanto actually won a $400,000 judgment against Schmeiser, and, when the farmer refused to give up the fight, the company sued him again, this time demanding $1 million. Schmeiser was forced to fight all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court, and even then, his victory was Pyrrhic at best: Monsanto's canola seeds have taken over North America.

Filmmaker Bertram Verhaag doesn't use fancy camera work or a complicated narrative structure to tell Schmeiser's story, but he doesn't need to. Schmeiser's folksy Saskatchewan way with a story, his adorably down-home wife (who, by the time Monsanto is through with the couple, "prayed more at night than she slept," Schmeiser reports) and the footage of farmers plying their trade on the frigid prairie will keep you riveted for the film's 65 minutes. Ultimately, the only thing more chilling than Monsanto's heavy-handed tactics is the possibility of a for-profit company owning patents to our entire food supply. Once again, it sounds unbelievable, but if Verhaag and his Canadian Cassandra are to be believed, we're already just about there.

 
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