(Saskatoon, February 9, 2015) – On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, Terry Boehm, Chair of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Seed and Trade Committee appeared as a witness before the Senate's Agriculture and Forestry Committee as part of its study of Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act.
“Our presentation argued that Bill C-18’s changes to Canada’s plant breeders’ rights legislation, making it conform with UPOV ’91, are completely unbalanced," said Terry Boehm. "The Bill grants plant breeders a long list of exclusive rights that give them total control over seed, while it offers farmers a transient privilege to save and reuse seed on their own holdings – a mere privilege which can be modified or diminished at any time through regulation without amending the Act."
During the same meeting, statements by Pat Mooney of ETC Group and Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN, both internationally known for their knowledge of plant breeders’ rights, reinforced Boehm's points. All pointed out that seed company’s claims this legislation is necessary to produce new plant varieties are suspect and have not been borne out by the experiences of other countries where the UPOV '91 regime has been adopted.
“Since 1990 when our current Plant Breeders’ Rights Act was passed, the government promised to continue public plant breeding. Instead it has been reduced,” said Ian Robson, NFU Region 5 (Manitoba) Coordinator. “What are we to conclude?”
"Bill C-18 is not about fostering innovation. It is about giving plant breeders powerful tools to extract wealth from farmers through the control of seeds," reiterated Boehm. "Seeds are powerful. Those who control seed control the food system, and ultimately, control people. The federal government is giving control over seed to Monsanto, Dow, Pioneer, Bayer and Syngenta. Do we trust them with that kind of power?"
“A healthy food system includes the consumers, and they need to keep contributing to the seed research and not give it up to all patent-holders and Plant Breeders’ Rights holders,” added Robson.
"To construct seed policy for this country and beyond, Canada should really be looking at the NFU's document The Fundamental Principles of a Farmer's Seed Act,” concluded Boehm.
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For more information:
Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed and Trade Committee: 011 33 1 44 84 72 50 (Paris)
Ian Robson, NFU Region 5 (Manitoba) Coordinator: (204) 858-2479
Video: In Committee from the Senate of Canada, Agriculture and Forestry – February 3, 2015