More talk of Canada signing UPOV ‘91

Should farmers own the research their checkoffs help fund?

While some see Canada’s variety registration system as an impediment to introducing new wheat varieties, others say the culprit is a lack of a return on investment.

To address the latter there’s increasing speculation the Canadian government will sign UPOV ‘91 (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) — an international agreement that provides stronger rights for plant breeders, including the ability to collect end-point royalties when farmers deliver grain to the elevator.

“UPOV ‘91 could be contentious in the farm community depending on your appetite to invest in research,” said Ste. Rose du Lac farmer Rob Brunel who chairs KAP’s Grain, Oilseeds and Pulse Committee. “That becomes another checkoff.”

Delegates at KAP’s general council meeting last month discussed whether farmers should own all or part of the new crops their funds help generate.

“I think that will be the biggest question we have to decide on as producers,” Brunel said. “Are we going to accept an end-point royalty and are we going to own this research or just pay for this research?

“Personally, if I am going to pay a checkoff I’d prefer to have some ownership in that versus just continuing to pay for it.”

The National Farmers Union is vehemently opposed to UPOV ‘91.

“When it comes to companies patenting crops, it isn’t a partnership it’s control and there’s more expense as a result,” said Deleau farmer and NFU Region 5 co-ordinator Ian Robson. “And that’s all we’ve been getting now even without the new model.

“My canola seed is nearly $60 an acre for next year. We used to pay $15 to $20 an acre for the same yield.”

The NFU has asked Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn not to approve a checkoff for a new wheat and barley association in Manitoba. It wants the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to collect the checkoff for farmers to fund wheat and barley research.

“We know from observing existing crop commissions that the direction of their work can be easily captured by agribusiness interests and this frequently does not actually help farmers,” Robson said in a release.

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