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Back to February 2014 Newsletter

Bill C-18 poses threats to seed saving in Canada

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.

Additionally, while farmers would be allowed to harvest PBR-protected seed, they would not be allowed to save it in storage: a seed company would potentially be able to sue a farmer for storing harvested seed intended for re-planting in subsequent years. This is just one of many ways that Bill C-18 favours profits and control for multi-national agri-business, while reducing farmers’ autonomy and Canadian seed sovereignty. Gardeners - note that so far, seed developers have mainly only registered for Plant Breeders Rights on major commody crops, so seed saving of garden crops will not be affected unless breeders register vegetable and fruit varieties as well.

The National Farmers Union has pulled together further information if you would like to learn more. They've even written up an alternative Seed Act for Farmers with fundamental principles which would protect rather than limit farmers rights to save, select, exchange and sell seed! If you'd like to respond, you could print off and collect signatures for this petition (paper copy so your MP is obliged to respond).

Also, watch the upcoming issue of our magazine for a more in-depth article about C-18 and its potential impact on Canadian seed sovereignty.


Bill C-18 would give plant breeders the exclusive right to:

  • produce and reproduce PBR-protected seed
  • condition such seed for the purposes of planting
  • sell, export or import the seed
  • make repeated use of the seed to produce commercial hybrid seed
  • and to stock (store) seed in order to do any of the above


Back to February 2014 Newsletter

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