GENET archive


4-Patents: U.S. Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds
SOURCE: Olney Daily Mail, USA, by Matt Courter
DATE:   31 Jan 2006

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Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds

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."

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Illinois farmers want to be able to keep some patented seeds
SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA, by Repps Hudson
DATE:   06 Dec 2005

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Illinois farmers want to be able to keep some patented seeds

The Illinois Farm Bureau is urging a fresh look at federal laws that bar
farmers from keeping patented plants' seeds from one year to the next.

The immediate target appears to be Monsanto Co.'s patented Roundup Ready
soybeans, which comprise more than 80 percent of U.S. soybean production.

Illinois farmers produce one-fifth of the nation's soybeans. This year's
harvest is estimated to be 3.04 billion bushels.

A resolution, approved Monday night, reflects the financial pressures on
many farmers, who chafe at paying a premium for patented seeds. It also
encouraged more research on seed technology by the private and public sectors.

The Illinois Farm Bureau's position, reached a decade after Monsanto
began selling its patented seeds, is believed to be the first from a
large soybean-producing state that challenges the seed giant's patent
rights. The patented soybeans resist Roundup herbicide, which Monsanto
also sells.

Farmers, struggling with higher fuel and fertilizer costs, want to save
money by keeping Roundup Ready soybeans for their own use and planting
them in later years. Monsanto has fought this practice in the courts.

Tamara A. White, the Farm Bureau's director of commodities, said four
lawsuits involving brown-bagging are pending in Southern Illinois.

Brown-bagging is the centuries-old practice of saving the seed from a
crop to be used in later years. Monsanto's Roundup soybean-use agreement
specifically prohibits the practice. If farmers were allowed to brown
bag seeds, experts say the resulting reduced sales would cut into the
amount of money available for further research into genetically modified

Lyle Roberts, executive director of the Illinois Soybean Association,
said it's in farmers' long-term interest to ensure that companies doing
research and development on GM seeds receive an attractive return on
their investments.

"We believe you should let the marketplace decide. Farmers who plant
these seeds make more money," said Roberts. "We think everyone should be
working harder to get these products accepted in world markets."

"As far as this affects our business, it's not law," said Tami Craig
Schilling, a spokeswoman for Monsanto. "We believe the farmer who loses
access to technology in the long term is at risk. Patents protect
invention and secure investment and innovation."

The American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington passed a similar
resolution several years ago, said Michelle Gorman, a spokeswoman on
biotechnology issues.

"Is there a way that farmers could save their seed and pay the tech
fee?" Gorman said. "Farmers here see farmers around the world paying
less for seeds, and they think that's unfair. You see 'brown-bagging' in
Brazil. You see 'brown-bagging' in Argentina."

The Illinois Farm Bureau's resolution said if Congress were to amend the
Plant Variety Protection Act, it should consider allowing farmers to
keep the seeds from plants grown from patented seeds and to pay a
reduced royalty. Farmers could use those seeds only on their own farms
and would not be allowed to sell them.

Gorman said Monsanto's patents on genetically modified organisms are
protected under a federal utility patent. The Supreme Court has ruled
that a utility patent for seeds supersedes the Plant Variety Protection
Act, she said.

"We think (the resolution is) fair," said Henry Kallal, a delegate who
represents farmers in six counties in or near the Metro East. "The
farmers I represent say it's virtually impossible to find non-GMO seeds now."

The 357 delegates, representing countries and districts throughout
Illinois, approved the resolution after 35 minutes of debate, said
White, and reducing subsidies to farmers, the delegates on Tuesday
adopted language that urges the U.S. government to get countries -
particularly Japan, South Korea and those in the European Union - to
lower agricultural tariffs and subsidies, said Kallal, who chaired the
farm-policy task force.

In addition, delegates supported some form of "income assurance" that
would protect U.S. farmers when crops fail or market prices are low.
They also want to see more government support for "green payments" for
practicing land and habitat conservation.


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