Agricultural bill causes early stir in Ottawa

Opposition MPs are promising a vigorous debate in Parliament next winter when the government brings its new omnibus agriculture reform bill forward for debate.


Although Bill C-18 proposes to amend advance payments regulations, farm debt mediation and rules for fertilizer and feed plant licensing, the most contentious issue of debate will be proposals to strengthen plant breeders’ rights protections.


“I certainly think the biggest piece in it is plant breeders’ rights and its impact on farmer seed prices,” opposition agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said in a Dec. 16 interview. “There is pushback from farmers across the country. There will be a vigorous debate.”


Liberal agriculture critic Mark Eyking echoed the sentiment.


“On the outside the bill looks very good and there is a lot I can support,” he said from his Cape Breton riding. “But plant breeders’ rights is a problem, a lot of smaller farmers say it would give big seed companies too much power and we’ll have a lot of questions about that.”


The contentious provision would update the Canadian Plant Breeders’ Rights Act to 1991 international standards from rules based on a 1978 PBR agreement.


The legislation says a farmers’ privilege clause would preserve the right of farmers to save their own seed for replanting.


Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said the new seed regulations would give Canadian farmers more access to new and innovative seed varieties.


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