Bill C-18, the “Agricultural Growth Act” is an omnibus bill introduced in Parliament on December 9, 2013. If passed, it will amend several federal agricultural laws which govern Plant Breeders Rights (PBR), seeds, fertilizer use, animal health, and marketing programs. The law presents some significant threats to farmers’ rights to save seed, and introduces additional costs for farmers growing PBR-protected varieties of common commodities. Please read on to learn more about how this bill would affect seed sovereignty in our country.
Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) is a form of Intellectual Property Rights that give developers of new plant varieties authority to collect royalties on seed sales &/or restrict their use for 18 years. Bill C-18 would extend this period to 20 years and enable “end point royalties” to be collected on whole crops at harvest, rather than just on seed alone. This would mean farmers would be required to pay royalties on grain sales, hay crops and other harvests of PBR-protected varieties.
Today – other than patented seed technology (GM seed) – Canada’s farmers may save any seed for replanting – whether it is a PBR-protected variety or not. Bill C-18 proposes converting this right to save PBR-protected seed into a government-granted privilege which the government could remove by mere regulatory changes.