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Percy Schmeiser, Saskatchewan farmer known for fight against Monsanto, dies at 89

Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser speaks during a news conference on Parlament Hill in Ottawa Monday, Jan. 19, 2004.  Schmeiser battles a multinational in the Supreme Court of Canada Tuesday. Among the issues at stake are whether a seed can be patented and whether a farmer must pay if that seed falls on his land and grows. Schmeiser says his land was polluted by Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola seed.
Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser speaks during a news conference on Parlament Hill in Ottawa Monday, Jan. 19, 2004. Schmeiser battles a multinational in the Supreme Court of Canada Tuesday. Among the issues at stake are whether a seed can be patented and whether a farmer must pay if that seed falls on his land and grows. Schmeiser says his land was polluted by Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola seed. CP PHOTO / Jonathan Hayward

Percy Schmeiser, a Saskatchewan farmer who became famous during his legal battle with biotech giant Monsanto, has died.

John Schmeiser said his father died quietly Tuesday afternoon at the age of 89.

He had Parkinson’s disease, his son said Wednesday.

Read more: ‘Percy’ director adds fictional elements to Percy Schmeiser’s onscreen story

Percy Schmeiser, who was from Bruno, Sask., came into the spotlight in the late 1990s after he was sued and taken to court by Monsanto for using its genetically modified canola seeds without a licence.

He denied intentionally using the company’s herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready seeds, saying they could have blown over from a neighbour’s farm or passing trucks.

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The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent but did not have to pay damages to the company.

His death comes days after a movie about his life, simply called Percy, was released.

Oscar winning actor Christopher Walken stars as Schmeiser in the film that hit select theatres Friday in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon. It is to be released in other cities throughout the fall.

In a statement Wednesday, producer Daniel Bekerman said the filmmaking team developed a profound respect and admiration for Schmeiser.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing. The Schmeiser family are wonderful people and we send our love to them,” Bekerman said.

“We are honoured to play a part in telling the story of a man who stood by his principles in the face of tremendous adversity.”

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Schmeiser’s story has also been controversial. Some in the agriculture industry have criticized the Percy trailer on social media, saying it contains inaccuracies, including its depiction of Schmeiser as innocent.

In an interview earlier this month, Percy director Clark Johnson said such arguments are fair, but the movie is meant to “to get a debate and a conversation going.”

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“If you want to take the position that he knew all along and he did it on purpose, take that position, that’s fine,” Johnson told The Canadian Press.

But he said he doesn’t think Schmeiser would risk everything he owned “to make up this lie.”

Schmeiser’s son said a private service will be held for the family, He declined to comment further.