National Farmers Union concerned about seed rule changes

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National Farmers Union representative Randall Affleck tells a group of about a dozen people in Cornwall about the union's concerns over potential changes to the rules around seed use. Guardian photo by Ryan Ross

Seeds are one of the basic parts of agriculture, but the National Farmers Union worries the federal government is going to make getting them a lot more expensive.

Randall Affleck, a national board member with the NFU, represented the group at a meeting in Cornwall Wednesday night where he raised concerns about the Agricultural Growth Act that’s working it’s way through Parliament.

“If adopted seed costs will rise dramatically for farmers,” he said.

The federal government is pitching the Agricultural Growth Act as beneficial to farmers for several reasons, such as increasing access to new seed varieties and by updating the rules around intellectual property rights of breeders of new plant varieties.

That’s not how the NFU sees it.

The NFU views it as limiting farmers’ rights to save seeds for replanting and a way for seed companies to get more money out of farmers.

It would do so by giving seed developers the ability to collect royalties or restrict a seed’s use, the NFU says.

Affleck said farmers have been manipulating seeds for years, but the current rules don’t say whether or not they are allowed to save seeds they buy.

“It’s an inherent right we’ve had as producers,” he said.

The proposed legislation would give farmers the privilege to produce, reproduce and condition seeds, Affleck said, but he added it can also take away that right.

“The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.”

Geographic location: Farmers Union, Cornwall

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