May 27, 2014 – Second reading of Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, resumed yesterday in the House of Commons. “While Conservative MPs speaking in favour of the Bill claim it is about modernization and making the legislative environment more nimble, its effect is to empower corporations at the expense of all Canadians, especially farmers,” said Terry Boehm, Chair of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Seed and Trade Committee.
Bill C-18 changes nine agricultural Acts. It adds measures to permit “Incorporation by Reference” of third-party documents in seven Acts, allows government to use foreign studies when making regulatory decisions under those Acts, reduces the Canadian ownership requirements for eligible corporations under the Advance Payment Program legislation, and amends the Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) Act to comply with UPOV ’91.
“Yes, Bill C-18 makes our agricultural legislation more “nimble” – by making it easier for government regulators to fulfill the requests of private interests without letting the public know what is going on and preventing public debate from dragging out efforts to make regulatory changes,” said Ann Slater, NFU Vice President, Policy. “Bill C-18’s Incorporation by Reference measures would shift decision-making about the safety and quality of our food, feed, fertilizers and seed into corporate back rooms instead of through a publicly accountable process where it can be discussed openly by Canadians.”
“The changes to the PBR Act would give plant breeders almost total control over seeds at the expense of farmers’ incomes and autonomy,” said Boehm. “Farmers would get a privilege to save and reuse seeds but could not stock them without permission from the PBR holder,” he continued. “This privilege is difficult to exercise if you cannot stock seeds. Moreover, unlike a right, the privilege can be changed at any time through regulation to exclude certain crops or classes of farmers.”
“For thousands of years farmers saved, used, reused, exchanged and sold seeds, as well as bred and developed new varieties. Farmers, breeders, and governments can innovate by working together to preserve biodiversity and create the new varieties of crops we will need for the future. Contrary to what the global seed industry and their Conservative government supporters maintain, we can do this without giving corporations total power over seeds,” said Boehm. “The NFU has a vision for public interest control of seeds that works for people rather than corporations. The principles of that vision are outlined in our document, The Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seed Act.”
“The National Farmers Union is committed to creating a food system that puts people in control, not corporations,” added Slater. “Because Bill C-18 is not consistent with our over-arching commitment to food sovereignty, we are calling for its defeat.”
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For more information:
Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed and Trade Committee: (306) 255-2880; (306) 255-7638
Ann Slater, NFU Vice-President, Policy: (519) 349-2448