What Makes Percy Schmeiser So Persistent?
Interview by Paul Goettlich* / Mindfully.org 27may04
Photo of Percy
Schmeiser by Lily Films
In this interview we learn about the aspects of Percy’s life that
contributed to his persistence in the fight against Monsanto since 1998. Every minute of
the hundreds of hours I have spent helping Percy has benefited all the farmers
of the world, just as he feels he has done with 6 years of his life. Monsanto
has not won this issue, but has essentially shot itself in the foot by its vicious attack of
Percy and the farmers of the world. We have not
seen the last of Percy Schmeiser. And our struggle to Reclaim
The Commons will be successful!
This is not a big win for Monsanto or a big loss for us, and the Harvard Mouse Case is Alive and Well. We strongly advise everyone to read the actual text of the Supreme Court ruling [see link below] and not take the word of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other newspapers that are heavily influenced by the biotech industry.
I feel that no matter how Monsanto's mutant gene crop got onto Percy's field, he is not responsible. I also feel that it should not matter if he planted the seed from previous years because it is his land, not Monsanto's. The fact remains that Monsanto should be liable for contaminating Percy's fields and those of the rest of the world. Why not? They certainly meant to do so. The cost for this crime should be born directly by the business and board officers, as well as each and every share holder who should be made to pay to the full extent of their wealth. For without these stock owners Monsanto would probably not have had the required capital to produce the mess on Earth that we now witness before us.
I am working on a review of the soon to be released video The Future of Food by Lily Films. In it Fred Kirshenmann, a farmer and the director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture says, "The way that the system is functioning now, it's my responsibility to fence that technology out from my crops. And of course, there's no way that you can build a fence high enough to prevent that." How true and how incredibly frustrating for the farmer to be forced to sit by and watch his farm be taken away from right under his nose.
If we who eat the foods produced by the labor of the Percy Schmeisers of the world will not stand up for them, who will? Take a stand! Make your voice heard.
Schmeiser Decision Causes Uproar Around the World - CNW (Canada) 21may04
Highly recommended: Heartbreak in the Heartland: The True Cost of Genetically Engineered Crops
Download MP3 audio of this interview (22 mb)
* Paul Goettlich writes about the health and socioeconomic effects of technology -- pesticides, plastics, genetic engineering, nuclear radiation, and so on. He is a member of the Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee and is an advisor to nonprofits on technology. His latest article was published in Living Nutrition magazine, "Get Plastic Out of Your Diet."
(Louise Schmeiser, Percy’s wife answers the telephone) Hello?
Paul Goettlich (PG): Hi Louise. This is Paul Goettlich speaking.
Louise Schmeiser (LS): Hi, how are you doing?
PG: I'm fine. How are you?
LS: Good. Good.
PG: Could I talk to Percy please?
PG: Thank you very much.
Percy Schmeiser (PS): Hello
PG: Oh, hi Percy. I'm calling to talk to you. You know we arranged to have the interview [today].
PG: So, how are you?
PS: Oh, I'm really fine, thanks Paul. We've had a little rain today. And I had some great meetings over the weekend. So, [I'm] getting over the decision of the Supreme Court.
PS: I've had calls from all over for world and there's a pretty big concern here in Canada with what the judges had ruled. You don't even need a patent on a higher life form as long as you just patent a gene and you inserted into a higher life form. And that can be anything -- plant, all the way to a human being.
PG: Percy, what will you do next? There are a lot of people who'd like to know that. Now that the Supreme Court of Canada finally ruled on your case with Monsanto, what's next?
PS: Well, really what's next is that we have to look at the lawsuit that was filed with the courts on the issue of contamination of my crops, my pure seeds, and my developed seed by Monsanto and whether my wife and I go ahead with that. But, that is a decision that we'll be making in the next couple of weeks. We want some time to think it over. And at this point in time, Louise, my wife doesn't want me to go ahead. She said it's time that we spend, at our age -- 72 that she is, I'm 73 -- that we spend more time together and do the things that we always wanted to do in our retirement age. You know, things like to spend more time with our 15 grandchildren, or five children. Whether it's taken fishing or to be... A lot of times I missed their graduation, I was gone. I missed a baptism or whatever. But if we do not go ahead with the liability lawsuit against Monsanto, what I still would do, and it's something we discussed today, is I would still go to wherever I'm invited to speak about the issues of what [Monsanto's] contract does -- how you can have contamination, the total control over lifeforms. But I wouldn't do it at the hectic pace that I was doing it before. I would try and cut it down a good percentage so that I could spend more time at home. So, that's what my intentions would be right now.
PG: How many flights were you taking? This is May 27th  today. That's the fifth month. How many flights have you had? And I know there are other things too.
PS: Since the first of January, I probably had at least over 100 flights. But besides even for 100 flights I have driven to Winnipeg and to Calgary, which are seven or eight hour drives. I have driven once to California. I have driven into the Dakotas. So besides the flights there was also a lot of driving. For example, last week I drove to Calgary, which is a seven hour drive. So I've spent a lot of time flying and it becomes a real job to get up, many times, at 3 o'clock in the morning to catch your flight. So, it has not always been easy.
Not only that, to give you an example, I've cut down the size of my farm by renting it out. But this week, I was back on the tractor. We've finished seeding yesterday. It was just great to get back onto the land, to sit in and watch nature all day long, to watch the sunrise and set, and to watch the birds and the wild animals that you see when you working in the field. It's really something to do that because I wasn't able to do that for the last two and three years. So, it was really something to get back to. But again, I would still give my time to talk about [the fact that] no one should have the right to patent life, no one should be able to claim ownership of life. So I still would spend time talking to people all over the world, where ever I may be called to.
PG: I think that should make them sit easy for a while, hearing this. A lot of people I know are curious about that. How many countries have you been in so far?
PS: With the GMO issue, I've probably visited between 40 and 50 countries. But in my life, before this all happened, my wife and I had spent the winter months -- when we couldn't do much else here because we were straight grain farmers. Our family also had a farm implement dealership. In the slow months like the middle of January to the end of February, or sometimes the end of March, my wife and I would spend time in third world countries helping in the health field or different projects. So, I would say, myself, I've been in at least 147 or 148 different countries since 1962.
We've seen a lot of poverty. We've seen a lot of field oppression. And especially, we were really concerned about children -- starvation and disease. That's why we spend a lot of time in these countries doing as much as we could and helping people. Generally, we traveled with doctors or with nurses and so on. Whether it's across the Sahara Desert or if it's in the South Asian countries, or whatever, we spent a lot of time doing that. What that did, before Monsanto laid the lawsuit against me, was to give us a broad knowledge of the culture of people, the way they live, the hardships they go through, the hunger, the starvation, the sickness, and so on. And so, when we saw what Monsanto was doing -- trying to take the rights of farmers away so that they could not use their seeds from year to year for their plants -- we realized with the implications would be on Third World farmers. So that's why my wife and I took that stand, because the implications of the farmer in the Third World country...it's bad enough in our countries [Canada and U.S.], but to try to make a farmer there to try and force them to buy seed each year, and the have to use chemicals... well, we knew the implications of that. [Monsanto] would have total control over those farmers and take all their rights. Whatever little rights they have left would be taken away. And that's why, I think maybe fate brought me to this point that I had an understanding, a big understanding of what was going on in the world with the control -- not only by governments, but by corporations that were knocked good public citizens, taking the rights of people away.
PG: If they can do this to you, just think what they can do to some poor farmer in India, or Pakistan, or...
Percy Schmeiser y Miguel Ramírez Domínguez
La foto por Greenpeace México
PS: Right. That's a good point Paul. I was speaking at the university in Mexico City about one or two years ago, and there was a Mexican farmer, a head of one of the organizations (Miguel Ramírez Domínguez, President of the Communal Property Commissariat of Capulalpan de Méndez, Ixtlán, Oaxaca, one of the communities affected by the contamination of their maize by Monsanto’s GMO corn genes) came from the state of Oaxaca [who] is also gave a presentation at the university. When we left, when we parted after the meeting, he was going back to the state in Mexico, and I was going back to Canada, I'll never forget the look in his eyes and what he said. He put his arm around my shoulder and he hugged me and he said, "Percy, don't give up. At least some of you people in North America have a chance to fight back. We don't have a chance to fight back. We don't the resources to do that." And when you look in those eyes, and you see how they've lost half of their indigenous corn to GMO contamination it just gave me more incentive. And often his picture goes through my mind when I see how the rights of people are being taken away. And then if you take the culture of corn, or the culture of the Mexican people that at one time, and still to some people in Mexico, corn was a god -- a corn god. There's more than just the seeds and the plants, it's a whole cultural issue. Those are some of the things, Paul, that my wife and I have seen -- the brutality, the suppression of people's rights, and freedom of being taken away.
We weren't just on tours. Originally when we started traveling, for the first few years, that's what we did. But once we knew about traveling, we then went on our own. We got away from the tourist traps. We went and lived with the people. We ate their food. We suffered with them. We had joyous occasions with them. And so, that's how you really learn and understand the feelings of people. You share with them their hardships and their joys. It gave me a real background. As my wife has always said, and I've wondered, "Why was it us? Why was it us that stood up to Monsanto?” Or, “Why was it us that were placed in a position to stand up to Monsanto?"
PG: Yes. It took a certain amount power to do that.
PS: Another thing, Paul, is something I never talk about. I really shouldn't be here. In my lifetime I've had three major accidents. One accident...I was one of the few who would ever come out of it alive. And every morning when I wake up and I thank God I have another day, because, like I said, I lived through it. I was in some major, major accident -- farm equipment accident(s). I was literally torn apart. I was told I would never walk again and things like that. I survived them and I came through them, and I think it gave me such a desire to fight, to really fight. I had to fight for my life...to live. I did everything possible to try and stay alive in those accidents. I think it instills in you a real fighting spirit. [So] when Monsanto came along and tried to take the rights of people away, I think that spirit of standing up to them -- how I had to fight for my own life in those accidents and survived. When you are told that you'll never walk again and when you are torn apart from head to foot, there was a desire there that I would survive.
PG: Could you explain that one... the stone puller. You told me about that. What is a stone puller?
PS: What it is, Paul, they call them stone pickers. It's a mechanical unit. They're about seven feet wide and they have huge reels on them. There's a rotating reel like a rototiller, as an example. But it's huge. It's maybe five feet across and seven feet long. You drive with them hook behind the tractor and there's a big bucket that probably would hold two to three tons of stones. You drive around and this thing rotates, it's driven by a power takeoff from the tractor. And it picks up the stones. You could pick up a stone the size of... oh, the size of a gas barrel, a 45 gallon drum quite easily with it.
And this is what happened. Because [I was checking on] the machine... I got [caught] in the machine and I was in that machine for over 20 minutes. I was going around. And it's all made out of steel with steel bats, steel forks on it. I was literally torn apart like a stone. But a stone is a lot stronger than a human body. That was quite an experience. I still suffer nightmares from it. This happened in ' 79.
PG: Do you mind me asking you questions about it? Is it okay if I ask you questions about it?
PS: Sure, no problem.
PG: When you are with me last, I think you indicated that the stone would be a foot and a half to 2 feet high?
PS: Oh, at least.
PG: And more?
PS: You can pick up little stones the size of a gallon pail, like that, or smaller. You can pick up stones right down to the size of your fist.
PG: And how big are the prongs, these things that stick out? Are they an inch in diameter?
PS: They're like teeth. And the teeth would measure about seven to eight inches long and they may be separated by two inches across. There are three rows of those about seven feet long on a steel plate and that's what rotates.
PG: Were you alone in the field operating this thing?
PS: That's right. Yes. I went out to check this machine after supper. It was a beautiful August evening here. And there was a malfunction and I went to see what it was. At that time, I was bending over and the power takeoff was still in gear. And the machine started in caught me in my chest or stomach and whirled me… threw me up in the air. Then I came headfirst down, back into the machine. And I went around and around in it until my feet got caught underneath the apron that lifts the stones in. Then an automatic slip-clutch kicked in and my body acted as the wedge. That slip-clutch is a piece of steel, like that clutch, and that wore that piece of steel -- it's about 18 inches in diameter -- wore that steel down, from slipping, file save a good quarter inch. That's how long I was in it -- until the neighbor heard me scream and yell. And he got the tractor stopped.
PG: Wow. These things penetrated your body all over.
PS: Well, I was penetrated 37 places on my body. The only place that I was not hurt was my head and my right arm. It took me four and a half years to recover -- to learn to walk again. [I had] many operations. But in the meantime, after I got out of the hospital I was still is able to do business work. I still went into a tractor. One of the first things that I did after I was able to do so, I went back into a tractor. I had one of the people helped me hooked onto a stone picker, and I went out and pick stones so that I would get over the fear of a stone picker.
PG: I had a feeling that was coming.
PG: The last time that I talked to you, you said that it nearly took your leg off.
PS: Well, yes. One leg was almost torn right out. That's another thing they had to do. It was about three-quarters of an inch difference in length. It almost literally pulled one leg right out of my body. It was a painful thing that happened, but I was the only person ever known to survive going into a stone picker and coming out alive.
PG: Didn't the doctor tell you that you'd never walk again?
PS: That's what I was told -- I would never walk again. I remember saying to the two doctors, who were personal friends of mine, that I would do everything possible to fight it and to try to live. I said, "You do your part and I'll do my part." They really worked on me for many months, in fact years. I was on crutches, I don't know for how long. It was quite an experience. But I had a desire to live.
I translate that desire to live to the sufferings of other people... how they try and live with facing hunger and starvation. I was in a stone picker, but they are in a situation that many of those people can never get out of. I was able to get to a hospital. I was able to have medical help and to get treated. But these people don't have that help. And they suffer.
What is the difference if I would have died in a stone picker or these people that I've seen in many parts of the world die of hunger? Or their parents see their children die of diseases or other ailments?
PG: ... and also to know that they don't have to [suffer and die that way].
PS: That's right. And you know, many times I've seen food aid sitting on the wharfs after being unloaded from ships, and because of the military, or friction between the governments or parties in the country, the food wasn't distributed, or the transportation was being controlled by an army. And here you had food going to waste and not going to people. I've see all those things happen. And I've seen food aid from many, many countries sold in the markets in many of these countries, whether it was cooking oil or ..., it was sold through the black market. Many times I'd see cans that said "not for resale." This is food aid whether it was from Germany or the United States, and yet it was being sold in the markets.
PG: Devinder Sharma from New Delhi speaks about the effects of genetic engineering and globalization on countries like India. He says that in the hunger belt of India, where there can be thousands of people dying, in that same area where people are starting to death there's hundreds of thousands of tons of grain sitting, rotting in the field because...for some political reason or other. They're not selling it to the people because the people have no money. [More on Devinder Sharma]
PS: That's what's happening. A couple years ago, when I was back in India, the state of Punjab had 60 million tons of excess food. In many areas of India people were hungry and were starving. It’s politics, it's economics, and it's transportation. Right now, one and a half times more food is produced than what is needed in the world. And yet, you have many, many people in the world who are hungry.
You have to have the will of the governments to be able to do this -- to feed people and to get it to these people. And as I said, the Monsantos of the world, when they say that will now always have sustainable agriculture and will be able to the hungry world with GMOs, that's further from the truth...that's the last thing in their minds. Because now we've seen with the introduction of GMOs [that] it's poor quality, less yield, and more chemical use than ever before, with more toxic chemicals to kill the weeds him because a lot of the weeds have become so resistant to chemicals now. So, that's all it means [to them]. It's more chemical sales. And now GMOs [have] control of seeds and plants, and ultimately the food supply. Anybody can control a nation quite easily if they've got control of the food.
PG: And that's what they've done.
PS: And that's exactly what they've done. And that's what will happen with the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada when they give all the power and control over seeds, plants, and basically life, to multinational corporations.
PG: I'm looking forward to good things coming out of India now that they've gotten rid of the ruling party. They have the elections just recently. There's still more confusion going on. But still, they've gotten rid of these people who were going to give away the country to the wonderful likes of Monsanto. There should be some good things coming out of there.
PS: I would hope so.
Yesterday I was on a phone interview on a radio station with Vandana Shiva and another person. I forget just from where. She said in the interview that farmers weren't told in India that if they buy this seed, the following year when they went to use it, that they couldn't use it, that they have to pay license fees, that they have to buy seed again. And she said that a lot of people didn't know what would happen. They believed what the seed company said and what Monsanto said. And then, the following year when they couldn't use this seed, they have to buy it again. So it totally destroyed them. And that's when she went on to [tell] about the thousands of suicides that have occurred in her country.
There's a lot of concern now by medical people about the use of insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides. A lot of the areas [in Canada] do not allow any chemical sprayed on the lawns or parks especially, because who primarily sits and plays on the grass? Kids, right?
PG: Yes. I know.
PS: So a lot of them are restricted now. You cannot use any chemicals, especially in parks.
So, If you've got dandelions, then you've got dandelions. (Chuckles)
PG: Well, it's a mindset.
PG: It takes education.
PS: There's more awareness of this now, Paul. Some of the papers now are saying here that what my case has done is it has created an awareness that did not exist before. Really, in a way, I think I accomplished, to some degree, in another area that I never expected -- the awareness of people not only to GMOs but also to the chemicals and the harm that it's not only doing to the environment but also to us as human beings. In that way, my lawyer said, "Things have changed. You really have changed things." That made me feel good. He said that by going around the world and telling people, not only about the issue of GMOs, but also the whole issue of the contracts, their extortion letters, and how they suppress people's rights and freedom of speech. He said that's a whole other issue that you brought forward.
PG: It's wonderful what you've done. I'm in awe of what you've accomplished.
PS: Thanks Paul. You see, people are saying that when you have a [Supreme Court] decision that is four-five or five-four -- whatever way you want to call it to -- they said that shows how much dissension there is in the Supreme Court. And especially one statement by one of the chief justices, a lady, she said the Supreme Court is not consistent now because they did not allow a higher lifeform to be patented in the Harvard mouse case. Now you still don't allow that patent, but you allow the control and ownership through the patenting of a gene. And when that's inserted in the mouse, you now own the mouse and control it. So, there's a lot of dissension in the Supreme Court over my case. And that's why people are saying here it should have never been in the Supreme Court in the first place. It should have been at the Parliament of Canada. And we have a federal election that has been called for the end of June. So you can imagine the pressure that is being put on politicians. In fact, when I speak tomorrow night in B.C. (British Colombia), there are going to be representatives there that are not only from the provincial government but also candidates who are running in a federal.
PG: Do you think something will come out of it?
PS: Well, there's a lot of pressure because some of the main-line organizations are saying they are they are not going to rest now until they get it before the Parliament of Canada.
People are alarmed. What they are really alarmed at is that the judges gave the companies total control of the seed, plant, and food. And people are alarmed over that. They feel that they've gone too far.
PG: Percy, that's essentially what they did, but they didn't state it like that, did they?
PS: No, but the legal people and law professors are saying that...well...
PG: ...by default. That's what they did.
PS: That's exactly what they did. But, having said that, [and that's going to help the organic farmers] is the fact that they are now saying that the liability issue will follow the gene flow. So, where everything gene ends up, whether it's by an insertion deliberately or whether it's cross-pollination, then it follows that if Monsanto has the ownership and control and it follows the liability issue, then they are responsible for what happens in the contamination.
PG: Do you know Professor Joe Cummins?
PG: I saw something that he sent out through the GM Watch listserv. It was a 2002 study that was talking about how they saw changes within the cells of, I think it was, mice or rats that were fed GMOs. I have a feeling that what it's saying is that there are changes that are going on here that don't happen normally.
PS: Right. When I spent time in India with Dr. Pusztai, from England, he was telling me [about] experiments [showing] the increased rate of growth cells in the gut. Now the German [and the Dutch] people are saying that they have horizontal gene transfer. So, that is to show that it does out of the stomach into the bloodstream, and now, also out of the intestine. It's just like anything else, like the tobacco industry. It takes that many years to find out. And that's the trouble [with not] having labeling. That's another thing. People here are really starting to demand labeling. They (industry representatives) always made such an issue [that] it would be costly -- people couldn't afford it. Well, if people in other countries can have it, I'm sure that we can have it here.
PG: I'm sure of it too. Its nonsense that it costs too much.
PS: With labeling itself, my goodness Paul, when you buy anything in a store or package, it's all in two languages. Well, if they can do that, they surely can label it.
PG: You have French and English up there [in Canada].
PS: Right, on everything that you buy.
PG: You said there were three accidents that you had. Which number was this farming accident?
PS: Actually what happened [another time was that I] was pulled out unconscious [from] an ocean. I got swept by an undercurrent. That was a very close call. They brought me back. I was totally unconscious...full of... So, that was one.
And then, when I climbed Kilimanjaro with an international group from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and so on. We met and other group climbing, and they were revolutionaries from Tanzania. They were going to place their flag on the top of the mountain. I was a faster climber in my group and I said that I wouldn't mind traveling with them for a half a day or to the next level. [I wanted] to see why they were revolutionaries, welfare plans were, and so on. One person could speak English. During the course of traveling with them for a few hours, I gave one of them my water flask. He was a carrier of an African hepatitis sort of thing. Four weeks or later when I was back in Canada...he was a carrier, I had contracted from him... and I had only a 50/50 chance to live. I was seven months in the hospital. I did survive it ultimately.
So those are the three things that happen to me.
PG: When you got back to Canada when did you first figure this out?
PS: Well, about three weeks after I was back, all of a sudden I was starting to get weak and it was right in seeding time. All of a sudden I could hardly lift a shovel. Then I started turning yellow. Then, basically I went unconscious for about 16 or 17 days. I was on intravenous. They thought they were going to do an exploratory operation to see what was wrong. They didn't know because we didn't have that type of hepatitis in Canada. There was an Indian doctor and he said, "You only have a 50/50 chance now to live. If we do an exploratory operation to see what's wrong with you," he said, "your chances are pretty slim," but that I have to make the choice. I made the choice not to have the operation. And because he was from India he had some idea of what type of hepatitis I had. My eyes were even yellow... my whole body... everything. It was the right choice. It took seven months to recover.
PG: [During that time were you in isolation]?
PS: Oh, yes. It was total isolation, as they call it. Even my wife, when she came to visit me she had to wear a complete rubber gown, even a mask, rubber boots, gloves, everything. People could come to the door, but that was as far as they would be permitted. You can imagine how I felt when [I] realized that [I] must have some sort of a plague. (chuckles) But slowly I survived it, but I lost a lot of weight. I lost, I don't know, 30 pounds, something like that. But I did come through with it. As a result of that I still have to watch...I can't drink...I'm not supposed to touch any liquor or anything like that. It still has an effect on me. But as far as my physical health is concerned, I have very good health.
Those are some of things I had to overcome in my life.
That's what made me a fighter. I guess people call me a fighter because I had to fight to live.
PG: You know Percy; I think that you must have had that spirit in you before this stuff happened. No?
PS: I guess so, yeah. I think it's just something that's in the nature of a person. But there is one thing always really bothers me. If I hear somebody who is sick say, "I wish I would die," it's just puts something through me because what I had done [to survive]. I fought so hard to live. And when somebody says that, it really bothers me.
PG: But they're different. It's foreign to you. It's just not something that would come through your mind.
PS: Well, yes.
PG: You know? That's just the way you are. I see you as an incredibly positive person. Any time that I have ever seen you, you're just always positive.
PS: There were several things that, Paul, that I found out in my life. You always have to look at things in a positive way. And I've always tried to maintain this. Even with this whole fight or legal battle with Monsanto, I always looked at things in a positive way. What is my case doing? If it doesn't help me, is it helping other people? And what will happen down the road? The other point I always have found is that if something would happen, I would never ever let myself become bitter. And sometimes that's a very difficult thing not to do -- not to become bitter when things happen to you. [My wife and I] knew that if we ever become bitter that we would destroy ourselves within and that we always must take a positive attitude. And we always found too, Paul, that you can never give something away that you don't have. If you don't have understanding, if you don't have compassion, if you don't have love, you cannot give it away if you don't have it yourself. We've tried to live but that. You have to have it was in yourself before you can give anything away.
PG: I'm curious to what got you -- before you got into all this stuff with Monsanto, you have been taking trips to these countries and living with the people -- how did you get to a place in your mind where you wanted to do this? First of all, how old for you when you started doing that?
PS: Well, it probably was around '62. So I was 31. But then, you see Paul, all my life I was in the government. I was a Member of Parliament, a member of the provincial legislature, which you would call your state legislature. Coming from a rural constituency...although I had fairly large urban centers in...but [a good proportion of those I represented were primarily farmers]. So, in the legislature I always fought for rules, laws, and regulations that would benefit farmers. I was on many agricultural committees and programs on the provincial level. Then, many times I represented my province on the federal level on agricultural policies. So, all my life I always fought for rules, laws, and regulations that I thought would benefit farmers. That gave me quite a background too. And then the whole issue of the traveling to see the world to see how other people lived -- their hardships and their joys and so on.
PG: But you are curious about that? I don't know many people like you because… most that I know would go to some sunny beach somewhere. And the most that they would see of anybody would be the people that wait on them.
PS: Yeah. You know, a lot of my political friends, when I would come back [from an expedition] for two months, living in a pup tent, crossing the Sahara Desert, or something like that... and what I would come home a lot of my colleagues would say to me, "What's wrong with you Percy? Why don't you and your wife just go to Hawaii or some beach somewhere (both of us laugh at this) and enjoy yourself, instead of going through such grueling trips.
To give you an example; we crossed the Sahara Desert one time, from one end to the other. It took us sixty days. My wife and I lived in the pup tent. Sometimes we were lost in sandstorms. But that's the things we did just to see how other people lived into experience or profit by what they were going through in their cultures.
How can you learn the culture of a people, or to know, or to feel how other people feel unless you stay with them and travel through their country -- not in tourist traps, but the way I did, on long expeditions.
PG: I don't think most people want to know.
PS: (Chuckles) Yeah...yeah, I think you're right, because they want to close their eyes to it. They know it's there, but they don't want to see it.
PG: No, because that would make them think.
PG: You cannot hate somebody; you cannot abuse somebody if you know them.
PS: Right. You know, my wife and I always had a great respect and love for children. We had five of our own. And we now have 15 grandchildren. But many times, when I've come back from trips in Africa or Central America, but especially Africa and Bangladesh, and so on, I would come home and we would go to a fall supper and see children leaving half a plateful of food. You can imagine what went through my wife's mind and my mind when we saw thousands and thousands of African children with big bellies and malnutrition and going hungry. And here, you see platefuls of food being thrown in the garbage. That's still haunts us today when we go somewhere, even to a restaurant and you see half plates of food or a little bit eaten going back and being thrown into the garbage.
It gives you more of a realization of what is going on and what is happening in the world -- the suffering that is happening there.
PG: I think we all need that.
PS: I've often said that everyone should be given a ticket or a plane fair to one of these countries and to see how other people lived. And I think when they come home they be more content with what we had our country of the United States or Canada -- how fortunate we really are. But we don't realize it, we don't understand it, and we don't appreciate it.
PG: We used to have a draft here in the U.S. And it may come back again, I don’t know, with this Kerry character that's probably going to be a our next president. But this kind of thing...there is a public service that needs to be done. And it's not being done. There's no connection between people and society -- the reality of what it all means. They don't know what it means. So how would they ever want to protect it if they don't even know what it means? There's no connection.
PS: Paul, that's exactly it. The people don't have a realization. They are in their own little world. And they don't get out of that little world. And they don't really know...as you said, a lot of people don't want to know exactly what's going on. They just want to stay in their own little area. [They say,] "don't tell me about it. Leave me alone. I'm going to do my own thing."
PG: In their spare time they read a nice novel of fiction and they watch all the latest news coming from the same people who are… they’re being paid by Monsanto for advertising. And so they’re just naturally not going to get reality news on the television that they watch. And they don't go anywhere. But they’re consumers. They have whatever the next best radio or TV is so that they can listen [or watch] 500 stations. And none of them have anything on them.
Do you watch much TV?
PS: No. No. I don't. Paul, I don't have time. But, you know Paul, there's a whole other aspect to this. Our family... we've always been a very close family, a tight knit family. But there's more to that. In our fight, in our struggle with Monsanto, in our legal battle with them, I could not have done it alone. I had the support of people all over the world and people here -- my friends, my neighbors, and so on...
PG: ...and Louise.
PS: ... and my wife. I could not have done this without that.
And then there's another part of this. My wife has a very strong faith and she prays a lot. We're Catholics. She goes to mass almost every day. She does her walks. She gets her walks -- it's three-quarters of a mile. She does that every day. I think that faith has carried us through many, many times.
A couple years ago, I said to my wife Louise, I said, "Louise, let's make a deal. You do the praying and I'll do the fighting."
PG: (A very hardy laugh)
PS: And I think it's worked out quite well. But you do have to have...we do have a very strong faith. We're not fanatics you know or anything like that. But we appreciate the works of God. And we respect that. And that's why we respect the opinions of other people, and appreciate that. But anyway, I think you have to have something within you, as I said before. You cannot give anything away that you don't have yourself.
PG: That's quite true.
I think this is a very good place to end. And I want to thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to interview you. It's always a pleasure to speak with you.
PS: Well, Paul, it's really been great. I've known you for probably a couple years now.
Going back when we set up to Monsanto, in closing, we always felt that the rights of farmers should never be taken away, and that they always are able to use their seeds from year to year. If you take those rights away and you stop the future development of new seeds and plants around the world. Not only that, farmers would become just serfs of the land. And you’re back to a feudal system and you’d lose total control of the food supply to a corporation.
So, with that Paul, it was really a pleasure talking with you. I really enjoy it when ever I have the chance to stay with you.
PG: Well, thank you Percy. Thank you. And when you do come to the San Francisco Bay Area, you must stay with me.
PS: I'm sure I'll be able to take you up on that offer. Also, before a leave I'd like to say hello to your wife, and especially also to your son.
PG: OK. Thank you very much.
PS: OK Paul. Goodbye.