National | Media Release

Ritz Sells Out Farmers Again With UPOV ’91 Says NFU

(Nov. 15, 2013 – Saskatoon, SK) – Gerry Ritz announced at this week’s semi-annual meeting of the Canadian Seed Trade Association that he intends to bring UPOV ’91 into force by August 1, 2014. Members of the CSTA include seed giants Dow Agro Sciences, BASF, Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta, Du Pont, Cargill, and Richardson International.

“Yet again Gerry Ritz is proving himself to be the Canadian agriculture minister most hostile to farmers ever by giving a choice plum to the biggest corporations in the world: the right to exploit farmers through UPOV ’91,” said Terry Boehm, NFU president. “UPOV ’91 is a form of plant breeder’s rights (PBRs) legislation which, at the very least, severely restricts farmers’ ability to save, reuse, exchange or sell seed. As well, companies have the right to eliminate completely farmers’ seed- saving if they fully exercise their UPOV ’91 rights and the government does not grant the “optional” farmers’ privilege,” he asserted.

UPOV ’91 will give plant breeders total control of the seed system by providing them with exclusive control over conditioning (cleaning, treating, etc.) and stocking (storing, bagging, etc.),” Boehm stated. Breeders will also have so-called ‘cascading’ rights: the ability to collect royalties at any point in the agriculture and food system.

“Farmers should be very aware that this regime will allow breeders to collect royalties on the entire crop – not just on the seed as allowed under our current Plant Breeder’s Rights legislation,” noted Boehm.

UPOV ’91 extends PBRs from 15 to at least 20 years, and allows companies to double up their protection through both PBRs and patents. “Ritz is giving the CSTA exactly what it wants for breeders’ rights under UPOV ’91,” contends Boehm. “Their position is that as long as a person benefits from the innovation, the company should receive royalties from its use.” He quoted from CSTA policy:

A. Defining the Breeder’s Right – Canada’s legislation must incorporate the UPOV 1991 definition of the breeder’s right in its entirety, ensuring that the following actions require the authorization of the breeder: production or reproduction; conditioning for the purpose of propagation; offering for sale; selling or other marketing; exporting; importing; stocking for any of the above purposes.”

“Ritz is pretending that the only way we will get innovation is to handing control of our seed sector to huge corporation and plant breeders. At the end of the day however, this is not about innovation at all,” Boehm contended. “It is just another way for consolidated multinational agribusiness to maximize the dollars they extract from farmers. UPOV ‘91 gives these companies all the tools they need – and more.”

For thousands of years, farmers have saved, reused, exchanged and sold seed. “We’ve bought seeds when it suits us and when new varieties offer an advantage, but we should not be forced to depend on these companies for our seed needs, and then have to pay again on our entire crop,” he stated.

“As the de facto representative of a deeply flawed farming and food system, Ritz’s sellout of Canadian farmers just gets worse every day. No one in the history of Canada has done as much damage to farmers and agriculture as he has. In the end, Ritz is giving over control of the most basic element of our food – the seed – to the likes of Du Pont, Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer. It’s a travesty,” Boehm concluded.

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For more information:

Terry Boehm, NFU President: T: 306-255-2880; C: 306-255-7638; e-mail:

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