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Illinois Farm Bureau & Monsanto Disagree on Technology Fees When Farmers Save Their GE Soybean Seeds

TITLE: Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds
AUTHOR: Matt Courter
PUBLICATION: Olney Daily Mail (Olney, Illinois)
DATE: 1 February 2006

Olney Daily Mail | 1 February 2006


By Matt Courter

With input from its Illnois chapters, the American Farm Bureau adopted a
policy regarding farmers being allowed to save genetically modified
seeds during its annual meeting this month.

The action is the latest in a long debate about farmers' rights to reuse
what many see as seed that mostly has been developed through public
efforts, and seed companies' attempts to recoup cost for enhancements
they have engineered by restricting such reuse.

The new policy incorporates language from a resolution passed by
Illinois Farm Bureau in December that asked Congress to allow the Plant
Variety Protection Act to govern genetically modified seed and not
utility patent law.

The IFB submitted its policy for consideration by the American Farm
Bureau during its meeting on January 9 and 10.

Illinois Farm Bureau member Richard Ochs said the policy gives Farm
Bureau more leverage and a unified stand should the issue of seed saving
go before Congress. "As it is now, if Congress re-opens this, we know
what we want," Ochs said.

Farmers are not currently allowed to save technologically enhanced seed
from year to year, Ochs said.

Steve Hixon, owner of Steve's Seed Conditioning in Claremont, said in a
written statement that the PVPA offers a series of checks and balances
as well as flexibility and opportunities. "These are items patent law
deletes, but yet the public deserves," he said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture information, the PVPA,
enacted in December of 1970 and amended in 1994, provides legal
intellectual property rights protection to developers of new varieties
of plants that are sexually reproduced (by seed) or are
tuber-propagated. Bacteria and fungi are excluded. The PVPA is
administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that plants and seeds qualify for
protection under the U.S. Patent Utility Act, upholding corporate
prohibitions against saving seeds and potential ownership of plant
genetics and the new technology by which it was developed.

Illinois Farm Bureau Senior Director of Commodities Tamara White said
that while language from the Illinois Farm Bureau was incorporated in
the AFB policy, the main differences in the two policies was that the
IFB placed more emphasis on the importance of the PVPA. The IFB
language, for example, supported the PVPA as the exclusive statute
governing the Intellectual Property Rights for the breeders of plant

The final American Farm Bureau language stated that in order to
strengthen the rights of plant breeders and maintain a farmer's ability
to save seed for the land he or she farms and dispose of incidental
amounts of seed, it would:

-- Support strong intellectual property rights protection to allow seed
developers the ability to recover the costs of research and development
of seeds, while abiding by all antitrust laws;

-- Support restricting the sales of protected varieties without the
permission of the owner;

-- Support the present provision which allows a farmer to save seed for
use on all the land he or she farms;

-- Support a provision to allow growers of seed varieties protected
under the PVPA to sell the seed according to local commercial law if the
seed company fails to abide by the grower contract; and

-- Encourage the timely release of information regarding increases in
tech fees and seed prices to allow for appropriate planning by producers.

It also stated farmers should be allowed to save and replant biotech
seed by paying a minimal technology fee on saved seed. Companies that
sell biotech seed should help keep the price of seed competitive for
U.S. farmers with farmers from other countries.

White said Illinois Farm Bureau was also not in support of the farmers
having to pay a tech fee on saved seed.

Hixon said he believes the Farm Bureau finally recognizes this is a
legislative issue rather than a judicial opinion. "If tax dollars are
involved, then unobstructed public access should be practiced," he said.

"The current trend has allowed private industry to piggyback patented
technology onto a public infrastructure and claim this entirely as their
own," Hixon said. "I say they have a right to protect their intellectual
property, but they need to learn to separate it."


This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the
Ecological Farming Association <>