AGRICULTURE | Agriculture Bill (C-18) will Undermine Canada’s Food Sovereignty

Food Secure Canada (FSC) is expressing strong concern about the orientation of Bill C-18, the Agriculture Growth Act. Introduced by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Bill C-18 is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that would modify many other laws. Overall, the proposed changes would further undermine the resilience of our farming sector and entrench corporate control over vital elements of our food supply, namely, seeds.

FSC is particularly concerned with the proposed changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act. These changes, if passed, would commit Canada to the 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV ‘91). UPOV ‘91, which is not obligatory under international trade rules, would put even more control into the hands of multinational corporations when the top three seed companies already control over half of the global seed market.

“For millennia, farmers have saved and exchanged seeds, a practice that has produced the agricultural biodiversity upon which Canada and the world rely for food,” says Terry Boehm, past-president of the National Farmers Union. “Under UPOV ‘91 and this Act, seed saving becomes a ‘farmer’s privilege’ that can be taken away by the government of the day without due public process.”

The National Farmers Union is campaigning against the Bill, which is expected to be passed before the House of Commons breaks for the summer.

“This is not the right direction for Canadian agricultural policy,” notes Diana Bronson, executive director of Food Secure Canada. “It is essential that we move in the direction of food sovereignty, which will lead to a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food system.”

Food Secure Canada has sent a letter to Minister Ritz, asking him to instead put in place national food and agricultural policies that support sustainable livelihoods for farmers, including the restoration of public research and extension services to farmers, and a commitment to UPOV ‘78, the foundation for the Plant Breeders Rights Act. The letter is open for endorsement until June 16. These and many other policy proposals are tabled in FSC’s platform, “Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada.”

Food Secure Canada is a national membership based organization working towards zero hunger, healthy and safe food, and sustainable food systems in a perspective of food sovereignty. Find out more at foodsecurecanada.org.

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