Bill C-18 story has missing information

On Wednesday, Feb.19, an article titled “Farmers’ rights under threat” NFU says, appeared in your paper.

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday, Feb.19, an article titled “Farmers’ rights under threat” NFU says, appeared in your paper.  The content of this article was very concerning to me as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Wetaskiwin; I noticed some vital information was missing.

Regrettably I was not contacted for comment on the proposed changes in Bill C-18 the Agriculture Growth Act, so I must take this opportunity to correct the fear mongering campaign instigated by the National Farmers’ Union.

The provisions to amend plant breeders’ rights under the Agricultural Growth Act (C-18) have the solid support of a broad range of industry groups representing the majority of producers, growers and greenhouses across Canada. These groups include, but are not limited to, the Grain Growers of Canada, Prairie Oat Growers Association, Barley Council of Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, Cereals Canada and Western Barley Growers Association, Canadian Horticultural Council, Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance and Canadian Potato Council.  The NFU seems to be alone in their opposition and misleading characterizations of the proposed legislation.

Farmers across Canada are embracing the opportunities that will come with the modernization of the legislative framework surrounding plant breeders’ rights.  The development of innovative, disease-resistant, higher-yielding varieties, while maintaining farmers right to save and clean their own seed is what the agricultural sector wants, and we are delivering on this.  To be clear, unlike UPOV78 (which is where Canada is at legislatively right now), entrenched within the provisions of UPOV91 (which is where most of the world is at right now, and where Canada will need to be in order to conform to many free trade agreements) is the farmer’s right to save and clean their own seed.  Anyone who says otherwise is displaying a willful ignorance of the contents of this important bill.

As an exporting nation, our government is opening up markets for Canadian products around the world. Farmers want us to get in line with our major trading partners on plant breeders’ rights, so they can have the innovative tools they will need to remain competitive, build a stronger farm gate and feed the world.

At a time when our farmers, unleashed from the shackles of a single desk monopoly, have seen record yields, the real issue facing farmers is market access and transportation to those markets, but the NFU seems to have totally missed that point.

Blaine Calkins

Wetaskiwin MP