In her letter opposing Bill C-18, Joyce Neufeld makes several misleading claims regarding how this legislation will affect farmers and our ability to purchase seed. For example, she claims seed companies would be able to deregister varieties that are now in the public domain.
Currently, 78 wheat varieties are eligible for delivery into the CWRS class. Of these 78, private seed companies were the developers of only 12 varieties. The rest were developed by public breeders at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada or universities. Private seed companies have absolutely no power to deregister varieties that were developed by public breeders.
A Plant Breeders Right (akin to a copyright) is in place on 37 of the 78 varieties, with PBR pending on six more. These rights can remain in effect for up to 18 years, after which the varieties become part of the public domain and royalties are no longer collected.
Of the 35 varieties that are now in the public domain, 30 were developed by public breeders and five were developed by private breeders. The oldest variety (Thatcher) was first registered in 1935 and can still be grown and delivered into Canada’s top milling class of wheat.
Neufeld’s letter amounts to nothing more than groundless fear-mongering. Farmers will continue to have access to existing varieties, many of which are now in the public domain. The real value of Bill C-18 is that farmers will have greater ability to choose new varieties that give us an opportunity to increase our profitability. Those farmers who don’t want to take advantage of that opportunity will still have the ability to stick with the tried and true varieties.
Jim Wickett - Chair, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association