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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Warm Thoughts on a Cold Night

It's been terribly cold this winter. I don't have to tell you that, do I?
When I was shovelling out the driveway this morning, I let my mind wander to summer thoughts.
Maybe these pictures will help your mind wander there too...

Stay warm!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Better Food For All!

I've been on a major reading bend over the last few months. Initially the books, for some odd reason, were about women wreaking havoc on their husbands lives, either in the form of psychological tormenting (Gone Girl) or hiring hit men to off them (The Silent Wife). They are both superb reads.  I highly recommend them.

Lately I've moved along to John Grisham and have picked up a few I haven't read about tort law and highly unscrupulous and morally lacking lawyers. Lawyers preying and getting rich off of the misfortunes of others.

Why on earth would this come to my mind when I picked my paper out of the mailbox today and saw a flyer for a grocery store? 

Maybe it's because we are being fed an image of caring and concern, when the reality is the store's bottom line and making money.

Ah yes. Of course it makes sense that a Canadian chain would choose a British chef-celeb to tout their message of "Better Food For All."  After all he has made his name by bringing healthy alternatives into the British school system, tackling overweight American communities (through his Food Revolution) and teaching healthy cooking tips through his television shows and cookbooks.

I'm sure he has done a lot of good and truly helped a lot of people. The reality is though that he has sold out, and to me anyway, this tarnishes his image.

I look through the flyer and see what I would see in any other Canadian grocery store. Doritos, Pepsi, chocolate bars, KoolAid and pudding cups.

Does the store really think that by putting Jamie Oliver on their television spots and other advertising materials we'll be fooled into thinking those items are any better than at say Giant Tiger (where they may be cheaper), or that their concern about our health is real?

For shame.

If you want me to believe it, take that stuff off your shelves and give us better food.
But don't take me for a sucker in this celebrity idolizing society.
I think we're all a bit too smart to not see this for what it is.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Seeds, Workshops and CSA on the way!

Two out of three

Everyday when I walk with my dogs, I stop in to see one of my elderly neighbours to make sure everything is alright. Everyday she says to me that in the 60 years she has been in Canada, she hasn't seen a winter like this. And everyday I tell her that it seems to me that this is how winters were when I was a kid. And just so you know, that wasn't 60 years ago.
It's been so chilly, or better said as so "damn cold" the last few days that my dogs haven't walked with me. 3 set of sad brown eyes stare up at me as I bundle up, and they charge to the door as I open it, but I tell them it is not to be. Last year we didn't miss a day, rain, sleet and snow and all that.
Winter you can be over now, so we can all start gardening again.

The "help"
Consequently I have been working on indoor-type things like packing up my seeds, sometimes with help. I'm so very glad that Stella, came to us as a kitten a year and a half ago. She's one of the babies my daughter Emily rescued from the conservation area up the road, when her feral mom deserted the litter. At any other home they may not have discovered her complete obsession with dried beans.
I however have an abundance of dried beans on hand, and when I pour them from their jars onto the table count out 50 per pack to sell as seed beans, she runs from the far corners of the house at the sound. She waits till one spills on the floor, and if that doesn't happen fast enough for her liking, she swats one down, picks it up in her mouth and carries it into the bathroom to play with it. There are lots of lovely beans in my bathroom at any one time.

Super rare African bean-"Mrocumiere"
I have started to receive some seed orders, but it will be several weeks before I am organized enough to begin mail outs. Plenty of time still though, considering the time of year.
I expect that the 2014 seeds that I am selling will be updated within a week on my website, and as soon as it is, please feel free to place your much appreciated orders for some wonderful seed. My seed packaging will remain the same as last year and is completely biodegradable.
In February I begin making the rounds to Seedy Saturdays, with Brantford up first. My "Events and Workshops" section of my website has been updated, so please check to see where I'll be in the coming months. Please note that people have begun to sign up for my on farm workshops in March, so if you are interested, please don't wait too long. They are good fun and useful too.
As well this year I will be at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington offering my seed starting workshop, "The Complete Vegetable Garden" and as well as one on growing unusual vegetables. Please check their website within the coming months for details.
People have been contacting me about the CSA for 2014 and I'm going to have the details on my website very, very soon as well. If you are interested, I am taking names at this point, with returning shareholders getting first dibs. I'm going into my 17th year this year of operating a CSA-whew-where did the time go? I'm so grateful for those of you who are "lifers", and those of you who have become friends. That's the "community" part of CSA if you ask me.

Painful peppers
I'm thinking about getting a few things going under my lights in the kitchen within the next week or two. I'll start some of the"stupid hot" peppers, like the Carolina Reapers (over 1,500,000 Scoville units), the Scorpions and Bhut Jolokias. They can take a bit longer than others to germinate, so I'll get going in January. This year, because of the popularity of these peppers, I will accept advance orders for these plants.
It's all well and good to get these indoor things done, but I am absolutely itching to get out in the garden and begin the very best year ever. Aren't you?