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Rights to save seed threatened

I would like to inform your readers of a public meeting to be held at Bluffton Hall on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. The meeting will present information on the threat posed to farmers and growers by the federal Omnibus Bill C-18 currently before Parliament. An integral part of this legislation would be adoption of UPOV ’91, which would speed the demise of the long-established and successful public plant breeding system in Canada in favour of a privatized, corporate controlled model.

A farmers right to retain and use seed from a crop he has grown on his own land would be removed. He would instead be granted a mere privilege to retain and use the seed — a privilege that could be withdrawn by government at any time without any public consultation.

This would force farmers to buy new seed every year, which in itself would increase their input costs, but coupled with the reduced seed supply this would allow seed companies to increase prices exponentially. We only have to look to the canola sector where patented seed for the glyphosate tolerant (RR) varieties costs over $500 a bushel compared to a farmer’s selling price of canola of around $10 a bushel. By comparison, barley seed typically costs $8 a bushel yet the farmer can get around $4 for selling the barley he produces from that seed. No wonder the seed companies are lobbying to bring about these changes!

The new legislation, if passed, would not only affect the grain and oilseed sector but would extend to all seed including forages. A farmer or rancher seeding timothy or alfalfa could potentially be charged an “end-point royalty” by the seed company every time he harvests a hay crop.

If these proposed changes concern you or you want to find out more, I urge you to attend our meeting. Although this meeting is being organized by the National Farmers Union, it is open to everyone from farmers to consumers.

Iain Aitken




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