Agricultural Growth Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member about Bill C-18.

It is a complicated bill. The plant breeders’ rights section, as the member said, appears to tip more toward the corporate interests than the farmers’. This carved out privilege to hang onto seed for farmers, to their own plant varieties, is undermined in a couple of ways, or at least is potentially undermined. I certainly hope we can toughen this bill at committee to prevent the application of it in such a way that it prevents farmers from saving seed.

One of the pieces I picked up on in the definition section is the change in the definition of plant variety to encompass “essentially derived” varieties. In other words, there is a broader definition of a plant variety under Bill C-18 than currently in use, and that would appear to me to give greater rights to the large corporations than to the individual farmer.

I wonder if my colleague has any similar concerns.

Wayne Easter: Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right.

There are very serious concerns, especially as the bill relates to plant breeders’ rights. As I said, the minister’s answer on farmers’ privilege did not instill a lot of confidence in me. He said that farmers’ privilege can be enhanced as we move forward. If that is the case, it can also be lessened.

There are some organizations and groups out there that are very concerned. I think it is significant, when we are looking at definition, that it is entitled in the bill as “farmers’ privilege”. Why is it not called “farmers’ right”?

Farmers have the privilege to save seed they have grown maybe for a little while, maybe under certain conditions. Farmers are the producers of food. Over time we have seen global corporations taking more and more control of the very essence of growing a crop, the seed itself.

I am not saying they have not done a good job in many respects. They have increased production. They have increased protection against disease and all those things. However, is there a balance? Is there too much power in the corporate sector and not enough in the farm sector?

I think we have to look at the difference between farmers’ privilege and farmers’ right.