Wednesday October 22, 2014

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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Legislation won't help farmers

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The Agricultural Growth Act (Bill C-18) is an omnibus bill introduced on December 9, 2013.

It will bring Canada under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 91.

Omnibus bills amend many pieces of legislation at once, often on unrelated matters. They make it impossible to fully examine each proposed change. Under C-18, plant breeders rights (PBR) apply to newly bred varieties that are essentially derived from PBR-protected varieties, allowing plant breeders to exercise control over the results of future plant breeding.

Bill C-18 allows for collection of end-point royalties (EPR) if royalties are not first collected on seed. An EPR system would require compulsory payments by farmers to the plant breeder upon sale of a crop grown from a PBR-protected variety. 

The main beneficiaries of C-18 would thus be private breeders, including the large companies that dominate the global seed industry: Monsanto, DuPont, Pioneer, Syngenta, Limagrain, Land O Lakes, KWS, Bayer Cropscience and Dow AgroSciences. Farmers would be at the mercy of these multinationals.

With this information, at the 2014 annual convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), delegates voted strongly on a resolution opposing UPOV 91, as they said it will reduce the freedom and rights of Canadian farmers, increase production costs, lower income margins and hurt farmer independence.

It also called on SARM to lobby the provincial government to use their influence with the federal government to remove this section from the Agriculture Growth Act.

Yet, on April 23, SARM sent out a letter to all reeves, councilors and administrators that contained a statement from Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture promoting UPOV’91.

If Bill C-18 passes, there will be negative consequences for farmers regardless of how they obtain their seed. C-18 would result in increased seed costs due to higher royalties on more varieties. 

Seed companies could/would deregister varieties currently in the public domain (royalty-free seed), reducing farmers’ choice of seed and pushing them to use more expensive seed protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights.

So, who calls the shots at SARM: delegates or the Saskatchewan Party?

Joyce Neufeld

Waldeck


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