Ottawa is just feeling more and more familiar to this Albertan.  I don’t really mean Ottawa the city, but the Conservatives’ government there, largely run by Albertans.

Here in Alberta we are used to major public hearings directly affecting farmers and ranchers being held right in the middle of harvest or spring seeding, just to make life a little easier for industry and a lot harder for farmers.

Now Ottawa is using the same play book.  Right at the height of spring seeding, when a few days can make the difference between profit and loss, Ottawa has gazetted important changes to seed regulations.  The deadline for responses is May 23rd so farmers can just park those air seeders and spend a few hours reviewing a pile of Conservative rationalizations about how turning over the management of the seed genome to the big six agro-chemical companies is a great idea.

The ETC group notes these big six multinational agro-chemical companies

“control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide.  Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, (BASF is active in the seed sector and is a leader in agrochemical sales and pesticide research, but it does not rank among the top 6 in global seed sales) Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control 59.8 % of commercial seeds and 76.1 % of agrochemicals.  The same 6 companies account for at least 76 % of all private sector R&D in these two sectors.”

These regulatory changes from Ottawa will allow them to remove farmers and take control in Canada as well.  The whole concept of “conflict of interest” has apparently disappeared from Ottawa, as it did years ago in Alberta.

Forage and soybean seeds will be essentially de-regulated so the private companies can discontinue the established varieties whenever they want so farmers will be forced to buy their new, more expensive modified versions.  Tofu eaters and milk drinkers take notice!  Without registration the established varieties can only be sold as feed, so farmers and their bankers should also take notice.  A “feed” designation means the lowest prices possible.  This is a story we have seen before with canola, and  soon consumers and farmers will effectively have no access to non-modified varieties.

This is the first critical step to introducing many more genetically modified varieties into the Canadian farm ecosystem.  The only real question is how long will it be before genetically modified wheat is on our table?

The details are in the following alert from the National Farmers Union.

From: “NFU Office”
Date: 7 May, 2013 3:05:13 PM CST
Subject: ACTION ALERT – Changes to Seeds Regulations – Deadline May 23
Reply-To: <>

Please circulate widely!

 Action Alert – Public Input on Regulations Amending the Seeds Regulations, Canada Gazette Part 1 VOL. 147, NO. 10 — MARCH 9, 2013

Deadline for submissions — May 23, 2013

The National Farmers Union is calling upon all concerned farmers and allies to submit comments about significant regulatory changes to Seed Variety Registration.

The proposed regulatory change has been posted in the Canada Gazette Part 1 and will be passed into law as is unless large numbers of citizens make their opposition known.

The changes proposed will have two critical effects: move registration of soybeans and all forages from Part I to Part III of Schedule III under the Seeds Regulations; and permit registrants to cancel the variety’s registration. This will make seed sales of that variety illegal and require that crops grown from that variety be classified as sample or lowest price and quality.   

Crop kinds under Part I will continue to be treated the way all varieties have been until now; before a new variety is registered it must meet merit criteria (i.e., it must perform as well as or better than reference varieties for one or more criteria established for that crop kind); and it must be recommended by a Recommending Committee of experts familiar with the crop.  Under Part III, a variety can be registered without field-testing or proof of merit.  The registering company only has to provide basic variety registration information to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The proposed change in regulation will also allow companies that have registered a variety to de-register it without giving reasons or notice.

The implications of these regulatory changes for farmers are far-reaching. If adopted, the regulation will:

  • Permit companies to take varieties off the market whenever they like, which will increasingly force farmers to use only varieties subject to royalties under the Plant Breeders Rights Act or varieties with gene patents, and thereby pay more for seed.
  • Empower companies to introduce new varieties of soybeans and forage crops – including alfalfa – that have not been field-tested for merit and which therefore may not provide any benefit to farmers.
  • Allow seed companies to transfer to farmersshoulders all risks of poor seed/crop performance when planting varieties that have not been field tested by independent third parties.
  • Transfer decision-making about which new varieties are introduced, and when, from a transparent, publicly accountable process based on expert advice offered by Recommending Committees to a behind-closed-door process controlled by private seed companies.
  • Letting companies de-register varieties will permit companies to unilaterally stop farmers from accessing and using perfectly good varieties developed through long-term collaboration among farmers, public plant breeders and international seed collections.

For more information about Seed Variety Registration:

Deadline for submissions is May 23, 2013

All submissions must:

  1. cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and
  2. the date of publication of the notice (March 9, 2013), and
  3. be addressed to:

Michael Scheffel,
National Manager, Seed Section,
Canadian Food Inspection Agency,
59 Camelot Drive,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0Y9


tel.: 613-773-7142
fax: 613-773-7144


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