In 1997, Monsanto's genetically modified “Roundup Ready Canola” plants were found in Percy Schmeiser's field. In spring 1998, before Schmeiser planted his 1998 crop, he was informed that Monsanto believed that he had grown Roundup Ready canola in 1997. In the summer of 1998 the canola in Schmeiser's fields was found to be Roundup Ready canola. After this, Monsanto sued Schmeiser for patent infringement.
For the next several years, the case travelled through the Canadian court system. Meanwhile, Schmeiser became an international symbol and spokesperson for the movement against the genetic engineering of food. He accepted speaking engagements, and received donations for his defense fund, from around the world. Ultimately, a Supreme Court 5-4 ruling found in favor of Monsanto of their patent being valid and if there was infringement.
The publicity around the case focused on whether Monsanto would be held responsible for “genetic engineering crop contamination”. This issue was, in explicit fact, not considered by the courts. The patent infringement finding was based solely on the determination that Schmeiser had recognized the cross-contamination, and knowingly went on to collect the crossbred seed, then replant and harvest it the next year. No punitive damages or the costs of the technology use fee were awarded to Monsanto, as the Supreme Court also ruled 9-0 in Schmeiser's favor that his profits were exactly the same with or without the presence of the Roundup Ready Canola.
On August 11, 1999, Schmeiser sued Monsanto for ten million dollars for "libel, trespass, and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready Canola". However, that suit went nowhere. In 2005, more Roundup Ready Canola plants appeared in Schmeiser's fields. Schmeiser and his wife sent Monsanto a bill for $660 in cleanup costs. Monsanto offered to pay the costs with the stipulation that the Schmeisers sign a release stating they would not discuss the terms of the agreement; Percy described this release as a gag order. Schmeiser refused to sign, and filed a lawsuit in small claims court for the same amount. On March 19, 2008 Monsanto settled out of court, paying the $660 without stipulation.
Percy Schmeiser married Louise Schmeiser in October 1952 and they have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Schmeiser served as mayor of Bruno from 1966 to 1983, and also as member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan for the Watrous constituency for the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan from 1967 to 1971 . Schmeiser has served as a town councillor of Bruno since 2003 and currently serves as the deputy mayor.
Schmeiser was the recipient of the Merit Award for Dealer of the Year in 1984 by the Saskatchewan Manitoba Implement Dealers Association. He was appointed to Saskatchewan's Real Estate Commission in 1993 and served until 1999. In 2000, he received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for working for the good of mankind in a non-violent way. In 2007, Percy Schmeiser and Louise Schmeiser were named winners of the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) :
"... for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers' rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws."
"Now, at 70, I am involved with this fight with Monsanto. I stood up to them because a farmer should never give up the right to use his own seed. I felt very strongly about it because my grandparents came here from Europe in late 1890s and early 1900s to open this land, to be free, and to grow what they wanted to grow. Now we are going back to a feudal system that they left because they were not free—basically we are becoming serfs of the land." — Percy Schmeiser in an interview with Acres USA
"Farmers should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice. I believe that this ruling is an injustice and Parliament must act to ensure that farmers' rights are protected. The playing field between farmer rights and the bio-tech companies rights has been tilted towards the companies with this decision."
"I have always campaigned on the right of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed. This is what I have been doing for the last 50 years. I will continue to support any efforts to strengthen the rights of a farmer to save and re-use his own seed."