Proposed changes to Seeds Act concerning
By National Farmers Union
May 14, 2013, Saskatoon, SK - The National Farmers Union (NFU) urges farmers and all Canadians interested in food and seed to respond by May 23 to the federal government's proposed changes to the Seeds Act Regulations. The changes will have far-reaching implications that should concern all farmers and the general public, and are being made through the Canada Gazette process.
"The Seeds Act and its regulations were originally set up to protect farmers and all of Canadian agriculture from unscrupulous seed dealers and poor quality seed," said Terry Boehm, NFU President. "But the proposed changes to the regulations clearly show that the federal government is prepared to let seed companies decide what farmers can and cannot use for seed."
The proposedchanges will eliminate the requirement for independent field-testing and minimum performance standards before new varieties of soybeans and all forages (hay crops such as alfalfa) can be registered. They will also allow seed companies to unilaterally de-register varieties at will, regardless of their value to farmers.
"If companies are allowed to de-register varieties, they can stop farmers from accessing and using perfectly good varieties," said Boehm. "We expect seed companies will use this opportunity to put farmers on a 'variety treadmill', de-registering old varieties so that the only varieties available to them will be expensive new varieties subject to patent restrictions or royalty charges under Plant Breeders Rights."
"Variety trials ensure that new varieties are a fit for Canadian growing or market conditions," said Ian Robson, NFU Region 5 (Manitoba) Coordinator. "Without independent testing, we won't know if a new variety will be any good. This means that farmers will become the field-testers, and we will be taking risks that will cost us if it doesn't perform."
Currently a committee of experts for each crop must recommend it, based on performance, before a new variety can be registered. The proposed regulation will eliminate that step, allowing seed companies to register a new variety by simply supplying their own basic information to the CFIA.
"The new system will allow pretty much automatic registration of soy and forages," said Robson. "GM alfalfa still needs to be registered before it can be sold in Canada. The changes make it so decisions to register varieties are based more on benefit to the seed company than on the interests of farmers and the people their products feed. The NFU supports continuation of the current variety registration system, where recommendations for registration are based on data from independent testing assessed by crop variety experts."
Proposed amendments to the variety registration regulations under the Seeds Act have been posted in the Canada Gazette Part 1. Public comment on the changes is being accepted until May 23, 2013.