Grain companies exploit flax situation to tighten vise on farmer seed saving

National Farmers Union Press Release

JANUARY 18, 2010


SASKATOON, SK: Grain company Viterra wants to force all farmers wishing
to grow flax in 2010 to purchase certified seed.  A Viterra spokesman
delivered that message in a presentation on January 11 at the Crop
Production Show in Saskatoon.

Viterra and others are pushing the requirement for certified seed as a
purported solution to the problem of the Triffid contamination in flax
shipments to Europe.  Triffid is a genetically modified variety not
approved in Europe.  But the NFU believes that the proposed certified
seed cure is the wrong one, and that there will be long-lasting and
negative side effects.

“The best solution is to test the seed supply, both farm-saved seed
and certified seed,” said NFU President and flax producer Terry
Boehm.  He continued: “It is false to simply assume that certified
seed is safer than farm-saved.  For one thing, it is almost certain
that the certified seed system is the source of the Triffid
contamination farmers are now facing.  Furthermore, it has now been
determined that two varieties of flax are contaminated with Triffid at
the breeder seed level (varieties Normandy and Mons).”

Boehm said a real concern is that companies will exploit the critical
problem with flax to force a long-term requirement for mandatory
purchases of certified seed, a requirement that could quickly spread
to other crops.  “Our seed industry is in year 7 of a concerted push
to curtail seed saving and force more seed purchases.  We cannot let
companies act opportunistically to leverage this flax sector problem
into an opportunity to boost the price of flax seed and force farmers
to buy all their seed.”  Traditionally farmers buy certified seed of
new varieties from time to time in small lots and multiply it for
their own use for future years.

Boehm also said that Viterra and other powerful grain companies must
not be allowed to dictate seed policies.  “Under the Canada Grains
Act, Viterra cannot refuse grain deliveries if they have space.  Thus,
Viterra cannot unilaterally declare that all production must be from
certified seed,” said Boehm.

He concluded: “Farm-saved seed can be just as safe as certified.  All
seed needs to be tested, and test results need to be provided at
delivery.  The Canadian Grain Commission must be the final arbiter in
this issue.  Grain companies are over-reaching, trying to
dictatorially impose their will.  The same grain companies that market
seeds are trying to make those seeds mandatory.  Only the CGC has the
power and authority to block this power grab.  We need to take all
steps necessary to restore markets for flax, but we have to ensure we
take only necessary steps.  And we have to ensure that key tools for
farmers, such as seed saving, are not trampled as we move forward.
Testing at all stages will be the key to resolving this problem.  It
is high time that the Minister of Agriculture stepped up to the plate
and offered to pay for the costs of testing, at a minimum.”

For More Information:
Terry Boehm, NFU President:
Darrin Qualman, Director of Research:   (306) 652-9465

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506

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