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[SANET-MG] seed companies want to control farmers
The article below, from GM Watch, points out pressures being brought on
Canadian farmers.The Canadian Agriculture Ministry has poured millions
into developing GM wheat by Monsanto. When Monsanto reported that
testing GM had stopped the Canadian government carried on covert tests
of the GM wheat to benefit Monsanto.Even the courts act on behalf of the
multinationals.It is likely that organic agriculture will b e forced to
sell GM polluted crops as "organic".
Reading through the recommendations on the future of agriculture in
Canada detailed below, it's hard to believe it's hard to believe the
report they come from is not some terrible joke , but, in fact, 'the
[Canadian] government has been deeply supportive. It provided $600,000
in funding for the report and, through the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency, donated staff, office space and equipment. In a forward to the
report, Bob Speller, the former minister of agriculture and agri-food,
congratulated the seed companies for their report and said "I look
forward to our continued partnership as the sector pursues this plan for
growth and competitiveness."'
Case not made for new seeds
Toronto Star, Mar. 5, 2005
Large seed companies are trying to change the face of farming in Canada.
They want a lot more power over farmers. They want to be self-regulating
and out from under the thumb of government. And they want the Canadian
market opened wide to genetically engineered seeds.
All of this is necessary, they say, because global trade has made
everything move faster.
In an 82-page report published in May, which can be found at
http://www.seedsectorreview.com, they say: "Today, the speed of
development for new varieties (of seeds) has escalated to the point
where the life of a variety is very short. Innovative technology has
brought with it the ability to produce plants with new desirable traits
within one or two seasons, working in the laboratory rather than in the
As a result, they say, they need robust profits from the sale of seeds
in order to finance research and development. And they need better
protection of their intellectual property rights in the seeds they develop.
Specifically, they want to be the ones to certify seeds and they want to
ensure it is certified seeds that farmers buy. One way of doing this,
they say - while at the same time holding back from recommending it - is
to "link crop insurance premiums with use of certified seed." In other
words, require farmers to pay higher insurance premiums if they don't
use certified seeds.
Some of them want to prohibit farmers from saving seeds for planting the
following year, so farmers would have to buy new seeds every year from
the seed companies.
At the very least, under what is called a "cascading right," they want
to increase dramatically a farmer's liability for improperly using or
selling seeds saved from a crop grown with a company's seeds. They want
to be able to penalize the farmer not just for the use or sale of the
seeds, but for all of the crops those seeds produce.
The difference is huge. It multiplies many times over the potential
liability that a farmer would face and would give companies a much
bigger stick with which to threaten farmers.
The report is called The Report of the Seed Sector Advisory Committee.
The public should pay attention to it because the federal government has
been deeply supportive.
It provided $600,000 in funding for the report and, through the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency, donated staff, office space and equipment. In a
forward to the report, Bob Speller, the former minister of agriculture
and agri-food, congratulated the seed companies for their report and
said "I look forward to our continued partnership as the sector pursues
this plan for growth and competitiveness."
As I read the report, it hangs on the slender premise that things are
changing so fast that seed companies need to transform the way the
business is regulated.
I asked Darrin Qualman, director of research for the National Farmers
Union, about the claim that changes are necessary because new seeds are
produced so quickly. According to him, this is all smoke and mirrors.
Seeds can be developed faster, yes. But are they better? He says he has
been researching seed development over the past 40 to 50 years, and has
found that "in many cases, seeds are improving now at the same rate, or
slower, than they used to."
So, has the case been proved that Canada needs this tectonic change in
the seed regulatory system? And do we need to open wide the gates to
genetically engineered seeds because companies say it would be profitable?
To both questions, the answer surely is no.
Cameron Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
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