Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ritz promises farmers can plant own seed

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he will amend a bill his government introduced in December so it will be “absolutely clear” that farmers will be able to plant seed from their own harvests.

They will not, however, be able to sell it to others if it’s protected under the bill’s provisions for plant breeder’s rights.

Ritz has not indicated how he could get around patent rights that apply to genetically-modified varieties, such as Roundup-Ready corn, soybeans and canola.

Companies such as Monsanto have been actively protecting their patents, including lawsuits against farmers who plant seed they harvest from their own fields.

The government is finally moving its bill, which received second reading in June, into agriculture-committee hearings.

That’s where Ritz can introduce amendments, including ones to make good on his promise that farmers will be able to plant seed they harvest from their own crops and fields.

The Agriculture Growth Act is mainly aimed at bringing Canada into compliance with the international Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

It’s a set of standards for protecting intellectual property so there will be revenues for plant breeders to reward their efforts and providing funding for continued new-crop developments.

Patenting is another and different way to protect intellectual property rights and has been extensively used by those involved in genetic engineering for crop improvements.

The bill that Ritz first introduced allowed  “farmer privilege” but Ritz says he decided to write it “in more farmer-friendly language” to remove any doubt.