In Cinemas June 10th
(Reviewed by John Glennie)
Percy Schmeiser (Christopher Walken) is a small town farmer whose family has been farming for three generations. At the start of the movie he hurriedly leaves a church service at the sound of a storm brewing so he can reap his canola crop before the rains. The proceeds enable him to buy a new harvester, but his joy is short-lived when he receives a call, followed by an indictment, that he has illegally used patented, genetically modified seeds owned by the giant chemical company Monsanto – the producers of Roundup pesticide.
They want to sue him and take ownership of all his seeds – which his family has saved at the end of each crop over decades. However, his neighbours have been using Monsanto seeds and some have blown into Percy’s fields. When he is advised by local up-and-coming lawyer Jackson Weaver (Zach Braff) to negotiate a payment to Monsanto to avoid hefty legal costs, Percy gets his back up and decides to go to court.
This true story shares a similar story line to Erin Brokovich where small-time farmers are bullied and harassed by a giant behemoth – who at one stage were listed 199th in Fortune 500. Major corporations like them have their foot in many influential doors, making it seemingly impossible to conquer them. At the hearing, Percy is approached by environmental activist Rebecca Salcau (Christina Ricci) who wants Percy to tour the country and appeal to other farmers to make a stand.
Though fighting what looks more and more like a losing battle, Percy takes his battle all the way to the Supreme Court. The intimidation displayed by Monsanto throughout the movie is quite evident and very well portrayed. It is definitely worth watching so take the time to go to the cinema and enjoy a very good movie.
Footnote: It is worth doing some internet searches on Monsanto after the movie as they have been the subject of much controversy over the past 10-15 years for their GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds and revelations that persistent use of Roundup has caused significant instances of the cancer non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The latter was a subject of a Four Corners episode about a year ago. Court cases are still happening and the company’s new owners, Bayer, have been ordered to pay about $10 billion in compensation.