The Issue of Farm Saved Seed

Res. E2-19: No Royalties on Farm Saved Seed

The federal government held consultations across Canada in 2018 to discuss the possibility of collecting Endpoint or Trailing royalties on farm-saved seeds. In 2015 the federal government made changes to the Plant Breeders Rights Act that brought Canada under the UPOV91.

UPOV is the French acronym for the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, an intergovernmental organization of which Canada is a member, headquartered in Switzerland. Their website contains a listing of all the countries that have adopted UPOV aligned legislation, policies and systems. The mission of UPOV is to “promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.” There is an interesting video about how Canadian Cherry production has benefited from royalties and Plant Breeder Rights, however it appears that the breeding is all public.

The Canadian Food and Inspection Agency has an article that answers questions about the protection of plant varieties under UPOV91 and the Plant Breeders Rights worth reading. The article gives a nice overview of what UPOV is, what changes were made to comply with UPOV91, and the anticipated effects of these changes to farmers. It is important to understand that the introduction of trialing or end point royalties benefits both the public breeding programs and the private.

Currently public breeding programs are financially supported in a few ways. When a farmer sells a crop they pay a check off to a commodity commission who then contributes a portion of that to public breeding programs. The Western Grains Research Foundation collects the penalties from the railroads when they don’t deliver grain as expected and those funds can go to public breeding programs. Farmers who buy certified seed pay royalties at purchase which go back to plant breeders and the governments support the infrastructure and manpower through tax dollars.

The recovery of the cost of breeding programs is more straight forward when there is no public system. In Canola the companies that do the breeding charge enough for the seed to cover the costs of innovation, and then protect their intellectual property by requiring farmers to sign contracts that prevent them from saving seed. Farmers pay approximately 50 times more for Canola seed than certified wheat. The theory is that tightening up the royalty system through federal legislation should increase investment back to breeding programs, and keep the decision on how much is fair to charge in the public system where farmers have more influence. A decision on which royalty system the federal government is considering, how the royalties will be collected and who will be charged with administering them is expected this winter.

RMA Resolution 6-19S Prevent Implementation of Seed Royalty on Producers for Farm Saved Seed

Western Grains Research Foundation – Wheat Variety Development, transition to Check offs creation of the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition

Western Grains Research Foundation – Barley Variety Development transition to Check offs

Listing of the 2019 new varieties from the 2019 Alberta Seed guide. Seeds starting with AB, CDC, and AAC are all produced from the public breeding programs. AB is a new naming system for varieties produced in the Field Crop Development Centre, so there are many varieties on the market currently that don’t have the AB prefix. Public breeding programs produce the seeds, test them and if they are selected for registration they are then sold to companies who will multiply the seed to make it available for producers to purchase and grow. Currently royalties are paid back to the breeder when the company with the marketing rights sells certified seed to their customers.

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