You would think that farming is already one of the most difficult and least rewarding occupations in existence. Climate change, pests and disease, natural disasters, pollution, transportation issues, tariffs and foreign competition – how could things get any worse? We are about to find out according to alarming information from the National Union of Farmers. They have started a national campaign – SOS – Save Our Seeds.
Ever since scientists started tinkering with the genetics of life, the people who own the scientists – corporations and institutions – have been working on how to exploit this ability for profit. This led to the creation of the “International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants” (UPOV). This international protocol established “Plant Breeders Rights” (PBR) that awarded intellectual property rights internationally, similar to a patent, over new plant varieties.
When PBR legislation was first introduced in Canada under a 1978 framework, a royalty must be paid on the initial seed purchase, but farmers have the right to freely save seed from the first year’s crop for planting subsequent crops. Varieties that have been on the market for over 18 years are no longer subject to PBRs, so they are in the public domain, meaning there are no restrictions on their use.
Canada adopted a new Plant Breeders Rights Act based on a revised 1991 UPOV. This new PBR Act gives plant breeders who register a new variety (PBR holders) the exclusive right to produce and reproduce seed, condition (clean and treat), sell, stock (store), export or import seed and to authorize any of these uses of seed for a period of 25 years for trees and vines, and for 20 years for all other plants. PBR holders are entitled to demand a royalty payment when authorizing a farmer’s use of the seed. Continue reading