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Monsanto versus Schmeiser to play out on Winnipeg stage

Prairie Theatre Exchange will host ‘Seeds’ as part of its latest tour

The tale of the Prairie farmer who fought the good fight for saved seed, or tried and failed to game a multinational agribusiness, or maybe both — or neither, is coming to the Winnipeg stage.

Seeds, written by playwright Annabel Soutar, will run for 19 performances at Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE) in Portage Place from Feb. 10 to 28, with Saskatchewan-born actor Eric Peterson (“Corner Gas,” “Street Legal”) as Percy Schmeiser.

Seed and chemical company Monsanto successfully sued Schmeiser, a farmer and former mayor of Bruno, Sask., for patent violation over Roundup Ready canola in 2001. That decision was upheld at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004.

Soutar, in a release, said she was “intrigued on so many levels” when she first read of the case in 2002, in part by the roles of biotech and patents on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Canadian agriculture.

“But most of all I could tell that there was a unique human story here. Who was this Percy Schmeiser and how had he found the means to go toe to toe in a legal battle against one of the world’s biggest corporations?”

“Seeds” is presented in a documentary style, based on court transcripts and interviews with the story’s major players. Soutar is also a character in the story as the Playwright, a move meant to make the story more accessible to the audience and to show the forces vying for influence over her.

“This is a wonderful piece of theatre that will certainly spark a conversation about GMOs, but more crucially, help inject some critical thinking into that conversation,” PTE artistic director Bob Metcalfe said in the same release.

“I think our patrons will enter believing they know who to champion, but by the end of the night will have a fuller appreciation for all sides.”

Winnipeg, the home base for Monsanto Canada, will be the longest stop on the play’s nine-city tour, presented by Montreal theatre company Porte Parole, where Soutar serves as artistic director. The tour also makes six stops in British Columbia and one each in Saint John and Fredericton, N.B.

Monsanto will also be the show’s accommodation sponsor in Winnipeg. Porte Parole’s tour is also mounted with support from Quebec agribusiness giant La Coop fédérée, owner of the Elite and La Coop seed and crop input retail businesses and meat packer Olymel.

Tickets and more information are available at pte.mb.ca.

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