National | Media Release

Harper Government Destroys Farmer Control Over Seed

(November 25, 2014 – Saskatoon, SK) – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is sounding the alarm with the passing of Bill C-18, the Agriculture Growth Act omnibus bill yesterday in the House of Commons. “Farmers must now contend with UPOV ’91. UPOV ’91 is one of the most farmer-unfriendly mechanisms we have ever seen,” exclaimed Jan Slomp, NFU President.

“Bill C-18 gives seed breeders– increasingly large multinational companies — massive new rights over seed along with the power to extract vast amounts of money from farmers,” added Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy).

“UPOV ‘91, enacted through Bill C-18, gives plant breeders exclusive rights over seed by allowing them complete control over the saving and reusing, conditioning, stocking, importing and exporting of seed. They also now control who may be authorized to do any of these activities,” said Terry Boehm, Chair of the NFU Seed and Trade Committee. He added, “Farmers get a “privilege” which can be removed or diminished, to save and reuse, condition and store seed for their own holdings. The most immediate problem is farmers now have only a transient privilege while breeders have permanent exclusive rights. This is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Boehm declared.

“As soon as this legislation was introduced, the NFU raised the question of how a farmer could exercise his “privilege” if he could not stock seed? Because of NFU pressure, the only amendment made to Bill C-18 was to include storing seed in the farmers’ privilege. However the question remains — what does “storing” mean when the plant breeder keeps the exclusive right to stock seed under the same legislation? We think this legislation is flawed and farmers will end up in court over this error,” explained Boehm.

“This legislation makes it possible for seed companies to collect End-Point Royalties on a farmer’s entire crop. It also gives seed companies the possibility to create monopolies to control future breeding by others through the Act’s ‘essentially derived’ clause, which gives breeders full control of any new varieties that exhibit characteristics of a company’s already-protected variety,” stated Ann Slater.

“Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz stated that the Harper government is being run like a business. It is certainly being run for big business and not the public interest. Bill C-18 is another blatant example of this mind-set,” concluded Jan Slomp.

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For more information, contact:

Jan Slomp, NFU President: (403) 704-4364, cell phone

Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed and Trade Committee: (306) 255-2880 or (306) 255-7638, cell phone

Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy): (519) 349-2448 or