According to the recent issue of Small Farms Canada, The Agricultural Growth Act Bill C-18 has received Royal assent and been passed into law. I'm sorry to say, it's the first I've heard of it, so please forgive me if this is old news to you.
Bill C-18 appears to be an excessively complicated piece of legislation that focuses on many facets of agricultural in Canada. It amends nine different bits of legislation; "The Acts to be amended under the Agricultural Growth Act include: Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act, Seeds Act, Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act, Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, all under the CFIA, and the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act, and Farm Debt Mediation Act under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada." from foodsecure canada. Covering such a large selection of different food and agricultural issues, it's difficult for me to understand what this will mean for small farmers like myself. However, from the little I've read so far, I'm already worried.
Focusing, for the moment, on the seed saving aspect of Bill C-18, it appears that this legislation gives a lot of preferential treatment to people who develop different seed varieties. If I understand this correctly, it is actually giving a lot of benefit to those who can afford to patent seeds - for example Plant Protection Varieties, Genetically Engineered seed, and so on. But offers no protection to those who develop their own varieties, especially if you cannot afford to patent your creation.
The Seed Act was already pretty strict about saving and selling seeds - although I have no idea how much it was enforced as nine out of ten small, local seed companies have ever heard of it when I asked them.
The rhetoric surrounding this new act suggests that the legal limitations on saving seeds (for our own use, sale or trade) is worrisome. At the moment, the legislation states that (with most seed) farmers can save enough seed to plant next year's crop, but no more and definitely not sell or give them away as seed. The way this is written into the legislation makes it very easy to take away the farmer's right to save seeds for their own use.
Anyone here more familiar with this new bill? Who does it actually benefit? What advantages does it give the farmer? What rights does it grant/take away from farmers?
All this rhetoric for and against C-18 is interesting, but I would dearly love to read the bill for myself. I have a lot of questions:
- what does this mean for small seed companies that focus on growing heritage and regional crops?
- what does it mean for me, a farmer who basically practices subsistence farming and sells the excess produce to a few friends and relatives?
- How will this affect my right to save my own seeds? I say 'my right' because I feel strongly that it is an important human right.
- what about my projects for developing my own plant varieties and landraces for my own use and to share with friends?
- How will this affect things like seed saving exchanges or seed libraries?
- Will there be more or less focus on creating seed for different regions, or will it be one big giant monoculture across the country?
- will this influence genetic diversity in our agriculture?
- what does this mean for the consumer of foods? Will prices go up to accommodate the new royalties?
Strengthen intellectual property rights for plant varieties in Canada
Create a regulatory environment that benefits from the latest scientific research
Reduce red tape and regulatory burden on producers
Increase consistency across CFIA regulations
Provide the CFIA with stronger tools to fulfil its mandate to protect Canada's plant and animal resource base
Align Canada with its international trading partners and expand global market opportunities.
R Ranson wrote: At the moment, the legislation states that (with most seed) farmers can save enough seed to plant next year's crop, but no more and definitely not sell or give them away as seed.
I'm going to be a big buttinski here, though not Canadian, and say I'd want to see that exact wording. I have deep suspicions about rumors about laws. In the past, I've seen people state that it is "illegal to grow food" in various municipalities, but when asked, nobody could ever show a law which stated it was illegal to grow food. None appeared to exist, but folks were convinced it was illegal to grow food. So it might be a similar case with this legislation.
In any case, often if sales are taken out of the equation, there is much less scrutiny of behavior. This is why I advocate the Gift Economy rather strenuously.