Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stop Bill C-18

This is important information that was made available on the National Farmer's Union website here.
Seed is for everyone. Let's keep it that way.


The rights of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, exchange, and sell seeds are under attack again.

On November 13, 2013, Canada’s Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz, announced that Canada plans to sign on to UPOV ’91 by August 1 2014. On December 9, 2013 he introduced an omnibus agriculture bill in Parliament, called the "Agricultural Growth Act" which contains the required amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights Act to conform with UPOV '91 among other measures.
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization that has created model laws that allow seed developers to claim property rights similar to patents. Canada joined UPOV and adopted its 1978 model law by passing thePlant Breeders’ Rights Act in 1990. The1991 model law, known as UPOV ’91, enhances the rights of multinational seed companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, Viterra, Pioneer, DuPont and Cargill, while restricting farmers’ rights.
The NFU has prepared a Stop Bill C-18 Toolkit to assist members and others to organize effective opposition to Bill C-18. Please check the toolkit page frequently, as we will be adding new material as it becomes available.
Adopting UPOV ’91 will immediately:
  • reduce the freedom and independence of Canadian farmers by making it much more difficult to save and reuse seed forcing them to pay more for seed;
  •  impinge on the autonomy of independent seed cleaners;
  • transfer millions of dollars every year from farmers to plant breeders’ rights (PBR) holders
  • consolidate the power and control of world’s largest agribusiness corporations over seed, and thus over the Canadian farming and food system.
As well, if Canada adopts UPOV ’91:
  • Farmers will not be allowed to save, store or clean seed for replanting without the express permission of the PBR holder. If granted, such permission is dependent on the government adopting, on a crop by crop basis, an exemption called the farmers’ privilege which may be time-limited and would likely entail payment of royalties to the PBR holder. Read Farmer's Privilege and UPOV '91 to learn more.
  • Companies will have a ‘cascading right’ allowing them to demand payment of “end-point royalties” on the whole crop – including each cut of hay on forage crops – instead of just on newly purchased seed if or when the company has been unable to collect adequate royalties on seed alone.
  • Companies will be entitled to royalties for at least 20 years on each variety for which they hold PBRs (up from the current 18 years under Canada’s UPOV ’78 regime.)
  • Seed cleaners will require permission from PBR holders to clean seed which, if granted, may be subject to conditions such as payment of fees to the PBR holder.
  • Mills and processors that buy crops will require assurance that the farmer-seller has paid PBR royalties to avoid the risk of litigation by the PBR holder.
  • "Farmers privilege” to save a small amount of seed from designated crops may be granted by governments through legislation, but this privilege could be rendered useless because seed companies would be able to restrict seed cleaning and storage.
Demands under UPOV ’91 for royalty payments, along with restrictions on farm-saved seed, have long-term implications for Canadian agriculture that will change its structure and negatively affect farmers’ livelihoods. Some of the likely changes include:
  • higher per-acre cost of production due to higher seed prices;
  • lower margins because end-use royalties will reduce potential gross income at sale;
  • fewer and larger farms because reduced profitability will drive larger scales of production;
  • loss of independent seed cleaning businesses as farmers are forced to buy seed directly from PBR holders or their licensees instead of cleaning a portion of their harvested crops for use as seed;
  • increased litigation within the value chain as PBR holders seek to maximize royalty revenues;
  • increased use of inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides as farmers seek to maximize yields and reduce risks to cover the increased cost of seed;
  • negative effects on air, water, soil, biodiversity due to increased use of inputs;
  • loss of vibrant rural communities as economic activity decreases because wealth is transferred from local farmers to distant, often foreign, holders of PBRs.
If adopted, UPOV ’91 would interact with other parts of Canada’s seed regulatory system. Proposed andrecent changes to the Variety Registration Regulations and the pending privatization of pedigreed seed crop inspection all work together to tighten the control seed companies can exert over farmers and the food system. The NFU warned about these mechanisms in its 2006 brief, An Analysis of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s “Proposal to Facilitate the Modernization of the Seed Regulatory Framework”UPOV '91 would become one more tooth on the "corporate ratchet" being used to increase and entrench the power of global agri-business corporations over farmers and our food supply.
There are alternatives to adopting UPOV ’91!
1. Pending the adoption of a truly farmer-friendly seed law, maintain Canada’s current UPOV ’78 Plant Breeders’ Rights regime. UPOV ’78 balances the interests of the public, farmers and plant breeders in a manner accepted by the Canadian public, and which also allows Canada to meet its international obligations for intellectual property rights protection.
2. Restore Funding to Public Plant Breeding. Canada’s public plant breeders are internationally respected and have made immeasurable contributions to Canadian agriculture. For example, canola was developed by public plant breeders at the University of Manitoba in the 1970s. Laird, a lentil variety suitable for prairie production, was developed at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC). Nearly all of our wheat varieties have been developed by AAFC in collaboration with several Canadian universities. None of these varieties would have been part of Canadian agriculture without the government’s long-term support for public plant breeding. The rewards of this public investment are clear. 
Recent federal budgets have reduced funding for public plant breeding, and remaining dollars are being directed to public-private funding partnerships and commercialization initiatives. Public funds therefore are skewed toward supporting private commercial interests rather than public-interest research for public benefit.
3. Take Public Plant Breeding to Variety Level. The federal government has stopped funding public plant breeding beyond the development
of germplasm, which must then be sold to private breeders to develop varieties for commercialization. The new varieties so developed are privately owned and subject to plant breeders’ rights. Farmers, whose check-off dollars support this research, will pay yet again through the increased royalties that would be granted under UPOV ’91. This system of private interests benefitting twice – first by using public research funding and then by collecting royalties on seed and production – is unjust and against the public interest.
4. Protect farmers from expensive court litigation regarding plant variety and patent disputesThe NFU recommends thathe government create a body like the Canadian Grain Commission that would settle disputes such that farmers would be on a level playing field with multinational companies and legal fees would not impede their defense.  
So-called “trade deals” are being used to enforce plant breeders rights and prevent farmers from saving seed. See Factsheet #6 for information about how CETA is connected with the attack on our right to save seeds. Leaked text from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations shows that it requires countries to sign on to UPOV ’91.
At the 2012 NFU Convention, Terry Boehm gave a presentation called "UPOV '91 ... Again" outlining the state of the attack on seed saving.
You may also be interested in the film, Seeds of Change, a documentary produced as part of a larger study, a farmer-focused Risk Analysis of Genetically Modified Crops in the Canadian Prairies
You may also be interested in the film, Seeds of Change, a documentary produced as part of a larger study, a farmer-focused Risk Analysis of Genetically Modified Crops in the Canadian Prairies
In 2005 the NFU worked with allies and citizens across Canada and we were able to stop changes to the Seed Act that were being proposed through the Seed Sector Review.
Together, we can retain control of Canada’s vital seed supply.
Take Action!
Download, print and get signatures on our Petition Once you have at least 25 signatures take the petition to your MP's office and ask him or her to present it in Parliament.

1 comment:

Sachinder Kumar said...

Thanks for share this informative and useful blog.
Plant the Tress and Save the Earth....So we need environmental services and waste management for protect and keep clean the environment.