Campaign to Stop Bill C-18: the Agricultural Growth Act

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Stop Bill C-18On December 9th, 2013 Bill C-18: the Agricultural Growth Act was tabled in the House of Commons by Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. This is an omnibus bill that if passed would make changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act, Seeds Act, Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act, Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, Agricultural Marketing Programs Act, and Farm Debt Mediation Act.


Although a few of these changes might well be worth exploring, the National Farmers Union launched a campaign to stop omnibus Bill C-18. Here is a brief overview of the concerns that we have with the legislation:


The bill introduces new Plant Breeders Rights rules. Although seeds cannot be patented, plant breeders can protect the intellectual property of new plant varieties by applying plant breeders rights (similar to copyrights on books).These plant breeders rights allow plant breeders to charge a royalty on the seeds they sell. The plant breeders rights that are in force in Canada now, protect the rights of farmers to save and reuse seeds on their farms. Bill C-18 changes the rules around Plant Breeders Rights and removes the customary right of farmers to save, store, clean and reuse seed on their farms without the express permission of the entity holding the Plant Breeders Rights. If granted, such permission is dependent on the government adopting, on a crop by crop basis, an exemption called the farmers’ privilege which may be time-limited, could be removed at any time by Cabinet and would likely entail payment of royalties to the Plant Breeders Rights holder.


The proponents of these changes to Canada’s Plant Breeders Rights say that the increased royalty revenue on seed (paid by farmers) will allow Plant Breeders (such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Cargill, Glencore International, Syngenta, Bunge, Limagrain and BASF) to invest in their plant breeding programs and develop new varieties.


There is however no guarantee that the increased royalty revenue will actually lead to more investment in developing new varieties – especially if they have a captive market that is restricted in the seed they can save and reuse themselves. Moreover, these changes need to be seen in light of the many budget cuts to public plant breeding programs in Canada that, in the past, have developed many new plant varieties suitable for Canada’s growing conditions—in the public interest. To counter these changes to Plant Breeders Rights, the National Farmers Union has put forward a document called “The Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seed Act” which outlines the principles needed to foster a strong, healthy, and democratically controlled food system that allows farmers to retain their customary use of seed.


Bill C-18 amends the laws governing such things as veterinary medicines, seeds, feed ingredients and fertilizer additives to allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to use the science of regulators in other jurisdictions instead of its own science when making a decision on approving or licensing new agricultural products.


Although at first glance these changes seem like they would allow a more efficient use of resources, given that the Canadian Government would not have to replicate studies already done in other countries, the challenge arises when we look at things like Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) which was approved (for use in the dairy industry to increase milk production) in the United States, but not in Canada. Similarly, this could foreseeably be used to fast track the introduction of new varieties of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Canada without Canadian authorities needing to prove their safety or their benefit to Canadians. In short, these proposed changes would undermine Canada’s ability to safeguard Canada’s food and agriculture system for the benefit of all Canadians.


Finally there is a fundamental problem with omnibus bills in that they are designed to push through legislation without proper examination or debate. Although there are parts of Bill C-18 that could make improvements to Canada’s food system, it is much more democratic to deal with each of these proposals in separate legislation.


Please join Grazing Days and the National Farmers Union in the Campaign to stop Bill C-18.

Here is what you can do:

  • Contact your MP and other elected representatives and tell them you do not want Bill C‐18 passed.
  • Collect signatures on the NFU’s Right to Save Seed petition and take it to your MP.
  • Join the NFU (as a non-farmer associate member) and/or donate to the NFU’s A Seed Act for Farmers, not Corporations – Stop Bill C‐18 Campaign.Make cheque payable to the National Farmers Union and mail to:  2717 Wentz Ave., Saskatoon, SK / S7K 4B6, or for credit card payment, please call us at (306) 652‐ 9465, or join/donate online at