Update on Bill C-18 and a Call to Action for a new Seed Act for Farmers
Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy)
Bill C-18 or The Agricultural Growth Act passed third reading on November 24, 2014. Once it passes through the Senate and receives royal assent, Canada will have a new Plant Breeder’s Rights Act which conforms with UPOV ’91 and a new Seeds Act. The Conservative party and the Liberal Party both supported the Bill C-18. The NDP, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois voted against it.
Last winter we published the Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seed Act. The first sentence of that document is:
The National Farmers Union calls for a new Seed Act for Farmers in which Canada recognizes the inherent rights of farmers – derived from thousands of years of custom and tradition – to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds.
We will continue to advocate for a Seed Act for Farmers to replace our new Plant Breeders Rights Act and Seeds Act. We need your continued support and help!
Although Bill C-18 has passed, the regulations that flow out of it have not yet been written. There will be regulations written to describe how end-point royalties will be implemented and collected in Canada. There will also be regulations written to place limits on the ‘farmers’ privilege’ – for example to remove crop kinds or varieties. We need to make sure when the above, and other, regulations are written they recognize our inherent right as farmers to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds. Who controls our seeds needs to continue to be part of our political and public discussions.
What can you do?
- Share this page with your contacts and through social media.
- Continue to collect signatures and submit The Right to Save Seeds petition to your MP. MPs from all political parties have presented our petition in the House of Commons – it is an action they are expected to take on behalf of their constituents, even if they do not support the petition. Each time a petition is presented in the House it is a reminder to other politicians that Canadians want our laws to recognize the inherent rights of farmers to save, reuse, exchanges and sell seeds. The petition is available athttp://www.nfu.ca/issue/ petition-right-save-seeds. At least twenty-five signatures are required for a petition to be recognized.
- Make copies of the Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seeds Act, and other NFU material to hand out at Seedy Saturdays, conferences, meetings, and other public events over the coming months. Available at http://www.nfu.ca/issue/stop- bill-c-18.
- A federal election will take place in 2015. Candidates have already been or are being nominated to run for all parties. Talk to your sitting MP and to candidates running in the election about the need for A Seed Act for Farmers. Give them some reading material from the NFU’s website and ask for their support to keep control of seeds in the hands of farmers and our communities when they are elected to a seat in the House of Commons.
- Along with our partners in the Trade Justice Network, the National Farmers Union is continuing to draw attention to the unprecedented power handed to multinational corporations through the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). If CETA is finalized multinational seed companies will be handed powerful new enforcement powers to maintain their control over seeds. When you talk with MPs, candidates and the public about the need for a Seed Act for Farmers, you can also ask them to not support CETA or other trade agreements with Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms or additional tools to enforce intellectual property rights, such as gene patents or plant breeders rights. The NFU appeared before the Agriculture Committee on December 4 as part of the committee’s ongoing study of CETA. Our brief on CETA will be posted on the NFU website shortly.
- Renew your membership in and/or make a donation to the National Farmers Union, so that we can continue to work with you to advocate for a strong, healthy, democratically controlled food system based on the principles of food sovereignty. The NFU does not accept sponsorships or funding from multinational seed and chemical companies, so the donations we receive from our members and non-farm supporters are critical to continuing our work. Click here to join, renew and/or donate: http://store.nfu.ca/ membership.html
During the debate on Bill C-18, Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz said that “there is only one small splinter farm group” that is against moving ahead on Bill C-18. A ‘splinter’ is also a small piece of wood that gets stuck in your finger and can be really annoying. We are happy to be annoying when we are advocating on behalf of farmers and those who eat the food we grow and harvest.
Minister Ritz also said during the debate on Bill C-18 that he was “not interested in hearing from people in downtown Vancouver or downtown Montreal.” I would like to thank all of the non-farmers, including people in downtown Vancouver and Montreal, for their ongoing support in the NFU’s campaign to keep seeds in the hands of farmers. A food system based on the principles of food sovereignty requires the democratic participation of both those who grow and harvest food and those who eat it. Thank you to all who have and continue to support the NFU’s call for a Seed Act for Farmers!
Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy)