Letters to the editor – September 3, 2020

Trailing royalty action required from minister

On July 22 in the House of Commons, the question was asked by the member of Parliament for Battle River Crowfoot, Damien Kurek, to the minister of agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau: “I have heard from a number of farmers and certified seed growers in my constituency who are concerned about the prospect of what are called “trailing seed royalties.” Can the minister of agriculture commit to full consults with producers on this issue?”

The minister of agriculture responded by saying that she “is following this issue closely and is working with various stakeholders and the producers who have a stake in this matter.” Primary producers feel that she should not be only following the issue — she should be on top of the issue.

The question is what stakeholders and producers are the minister talking to and what sort of information is she receiving? If she is talking to or taking her information only from the Canadian Seed Trade Association, comprised of approximately 130 members and like-minded people, she could be or will be ill- informed to a large extent. If she, the minister of agriculture, is consulting with primary producers and seed growers, she will be talking or consulting with approximately 100,000 farm families from across Western Canada alone.

This trailing royalty issue is a very real concern, and if it is supported by our government, it will bring another crippling financial burden onto the backs of primary producers.

If the Canadian Seed Trade Association has its way, the CSTA will have control of the seed industry, and the federal government could be left with an excuse to shirk its responsibility of regulating, administrating and efficiently funding our publicly funded system. Our present system is known as a renowned seed variety development program that is far more cost effective and focused on food production, while respecting the environment to the largest extent possible. This is to a large extent contrary to corporate endeavours.

Presently, the approximate financial cost comparison for single variety development is $5 million corporate funded versus $1 million public funded. Who is expected to pay whatever the cost is? In the end the primary producer and the consumer pay, and as a member of both producer and consumer groups, I reject the $5 million corporate cost. We should realize that the $5 million would only be the beginning of ever-increasing costs of “value creation” of corporate control.

It would be advantageous for our producers, consumers and government if we maintain our present publicly funded system of varietal seed development, which is more cost-effective and efficient, quality focused and environmentally acceptable.

If government refuses to properly address this issue of seed-industry control, then it must allow the primary producers a vote, for primary producers and seed growers are the stakeholders in this issue. People on the ground must have a say. The seed industry should not be controlled by corporations with the corporate goals of dollar creation for shareholders.

Under the present circumstances, open consultations with primary producers must be continued. With resolve, we must seek a successful resolution by including the input of primary producers and society. There is an unwritten cheap food policy in Canada. If that is going to continue, now is the time to make that policy work for all.

W. Douglas Fawcett

Consort, Alta.

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