A Letter to the Editor in the August 21 Southwest Booster, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) claims I was misleading the public on the dangers of Bill C-18.
‘The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act allows companies to collect royalties on new varieties for 18 years – 20 if Bill C-18 passes. This regulation would give them the green light to de-register varieties for no valid reason a year or two before the plant breeders rights expire to prevent those varieties from entering the public domain where they can be freely saved, shared sold and exchanged. Furthermore, many of the existing public-domain varieties are registered by companies that also sell PBR varieties. There is nothing to stop those companies from removing perfectly good older varieties from the market by de-registering them states Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed and Trade Committee.
A closer look at the text of Bill C-18 reveals that indeed, it talks about a farmer’s ability to save seed, BUT when storing that saved seed, the farmer needs the permission of the holder of the Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) which may or may not be given, and of course the breeder has the right to charge royalties as well.
Bill C-18 in fact also empowers government to remove, restrict or limit the farmer’s seed-saving privilege by passing regulations, a process that can happen quickly and without public debate.
The federal government has stopped funding public plant breeding beyond the development of germplasm, which must then be sold to private breeders to develop varieties for commercialization. The new varieties so developed are privately owned and subject to plant breeders’ rights. Farmers, whose check-off dollars support this research, will pay yet again through the increased royalties that would be granted under UPOV ’91. This system of private interests benefitting twice – first by using public research funding and then by collecting royalties on seed and production – is unjust and against the public interest.
So, who is misleading whom? It appears to be the WCWGA and their bosom buddy Gerry Ritz.
Joyce Neufeld - Waldeck