TITLE: Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds AUTHOR: Matt Courter PUBLICATION: Olney Daily Mail (Olney, Illinois) DATE: 1 February 2006 URL: http://www.olneydailymail.com/articles/2006/01/31/news/news 02.txt Olney Daily Mail | 1 February 2006 FARM BUREAU PUSHES TO LET FARMERS SAVE SEEDS 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 varieties. 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."