plant genetics treaty takes effect tomorrow
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, July 1, 2004 --
CropChoice news: A groundbreaking new international
treaty that validates farmers’ rights
to save seeds went into effect June 29.
The "International Treaty on Plant
Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture"
establishes a multilateral system providing
public access to seeds and germplasm for
much of the world's food supply, as well
as fair and equitable sharing of the benefits.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy (IATP) is calling on the Bush Administration
to bring the treaty before Congress for
"Protection of the world’s food
supply depends on the broadest possible
distribution of seeds,” said Kristin
Dawkins, Vice President of International
Programs at IATP. “Genetic diversity
is the key to healthy crops, and this global
program to include farmers in the effort
to ensure widespread cross-fertilization
through the exchange of seed is vital. It
is time for the U.S. to join the rest of
the world in protecting farmers rights to
save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved
Of the 10,000 species that have been used
for human food and agriculture, just 12
provide over 70 percent of food, while four
-- rice, maize, wheat and potatoes -- make
up over 50 percent of the food supply. Farmers
around the world, particularly in developing
countries, routinely save seeds and view
the practice as critical to their survival.
If the U.S. ratified the treaty, it would
not give U.S. farmers the right to save
seeds. It allows that national laws can
supersede the Treaty, and current U.S. law
does not protect farmers in this regard.
But the treaty does empower other countries
to set domestic laws that protect farmers'
right to save seeds.
The full treaty can be read at: http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/itpgr.htm
CHICAGO, Illinois, June 30, 2004 -- CropChoice
news -- OsterDowJones, 06/29/04: A bill, introduced
by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, that would allow
farmers to save and replant patented seeds is now before
a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee.
The Seed and Availability and Competition Act of 2004,
which was introduced to the Agriculture subcommittee
of Appropriations on Thursday, will decriminalize the
act of saving patented seed as the farmer reports the
quantity of seed retained and pays an appropriate technology
fee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA
will then compensate the companies that hold patents
on the respective seeds, the Missouri Farmers Union
said in a press release.
National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson
said traditionally farmers have kept a portion of their
seed to replant the next year, according to the release.
However, now with the ability to patent life forms,
farmers have lost control of their seed stock and are
forced to buy seed year after year, he said.
Kaptur's Chief of Staff Roger Szemraj said, "This
is just a matter of keeping options available."
Szemraj said Kaptur's office did not have contact with
any of the companies. "(This bill) was more of
a matter of dealing with the farmers," he said.
Lisa Dry, communications director for Biotechnology
Industry Organization, which represents the patent companies,
said they would not support this bill.
"These farmers choose to buy biocrop seeds ...
clearly farmers want access to these seeds," she
said citing that 80% of soy, 70% of cotton and 30- 40%
of corn is planted with patented seeds.
Dry said the statistics show farmers presently prefer
to pay for the patented seed over the non-patented.
Tom DeGregori, an economics professor at the University
of Houston, said he could see why the businesses would
be against this bill.
"They charge a considerable premium (for patented
seeds)," he said. "They can because farmers
can pay the premium and still more (earnings)."
Missouri state Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, who began
introducing seed-saving legislation with the support
of Missouri Farmers Union, began introducing a similar
bill three years ago, the release said. This year, the
bill was killed when Missouri House Speaker Catherine
Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, refused to send it to committee,
the release said.
Kaptur's bill includes legislation that would assess
tariffs on imported products from countries that do
not levy a comparable technology fee, the release said.
Szemraj said whether the process of seed saving and
paying the fee is cheaper than purchasing new patented
seeds every year is unknown. It depends on the market,
Szemraj said. However, with this bill, farmers would
have a choice between the two.
Shoemyer said Kaptur's legislation would also help
businesses keep money in their community by cleaning
the seed locally.
Similar companion bills were introduced to the Ohio
House of Representatives by Rep. George Distel, D-Columbus,
and the Ohio Senate by State Sen. Marc Dann, D-Columbus,
on Friday, according to the Mount Vernon News.