Two major farmers' groups in Canada are split on whether restrictions on seed use in the federal government's Agricultural Growth Act are good or bad for farmers.
'You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?' - Steven Mackinnon, National Farmers Union
Members of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I. are fighting against Bill C-18. They believe part of the bill will take away farmers rights to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds.
"There is a lot of things in it that would either hinder or hamper farmers in the future from saving their own seed. Farmers and people around the world have been saving their own seed for 10,000 years. You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?" said Steven Mackinnon, district director of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I.
"Also, if you leave it in the private, multinational corporations, the government will do a lot less public research on different seed varieties and etc. So there will be less and less varieties probably to choose from."
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, however, takes a different view. It believes the bill will better align Canada with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, and strikes a good balance between ensuring variety developers have the ability to see a return on investment for their plant breeding research efforts, while also preserving the right for farmers to save and condition seed for their own use.
Ottawa maintains the bill will encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada and improve accessibility to foreign seed varieties for farmers. It says farmers will have the right to save and clean or treat seed for replanting on their own land.
Other areas of the proposed legislative changes would make it easier for farmers and industry to meet government requirements, by reducing red tape and delivering programs more effectively, government representatives say.
NFU members on P.E.I. are holding a meeting Wednesday night in Cornwall to develop a strategy to defeat Bill C-18, or at the very least have changes made.