Your Right to Save Your Seed
Thursday 16th February 2012
It is a popular theory that farm saved seed is a parasite upon the efforts and investment of the plant breeders, who continually seek to evolve new varieties and techniques with which to feed our ever growing population. Every time a mobile seed processor processes a tonne of wheat the breeders receive only 50% of the royalty amount that they would have if they had purchased certified seed. So it is an easy argument to make that mobile processors are depriving the plant breeders of a valuable income stream.
As "food security" becomes an increasingly pressing issue for our politicians they are constantly being lobbied by the plant breeders, who tell them that farm processed seed hampers their efforts to feed the world. Ministers on a national and international level are being asked to address this issue. The breeders are always looking for ways in which to cut the mobile seed processor out of the loop. Hybrid varieties are one way in which this has been possible, EU legislation prohibits the farm saving of hybrids and so the loop is closed and the income stream protected. If this trend continues then UK farmers face having to do business with a small number of very powerful plant breeders; history has shown us that the customer will not profit when competition between suppliers is virtually non-existent. Ask yourself why the cost of hybrid seed is so expensive.
Even if you do not use a farm saved seed service, you will still prosper from our endeavours. Without the competition we provide do you think that certified seed prices would be as low as they are?
The rolling out of the Royalty Area Collection (RAC) scheme is another attempt by a small number of breeders to ensure that farm saved seed does not reduce the income stream to the breeders. The RAC scheme has taken a few varieties of peas, beans and oats and put them in a royalty collection scheme outside of the one currently run by the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB). The RAC scheme collects the royalty payment based upon the area of crop sown and not the tonnage of seed sown. The rate of royalty remains the same for farm saved seed and so bypasses the “sensibly lower rate” which was negotiated in the 1990’s. The RAC scheme does not allow farmers to make financial gains by drilling at lower rates and also ties the grower into a contract that is not always transparent.
A farmer’s motivation to use a mobile seed processing service is not wholly driven by financial gain. How many stories do you hear of a farmer having to postpone his intended drilling date for days, or possibly weeks, while he waits for seed to be delivered. In my sixteen years experience of mobile seed processing, I am not aware of us ever failing to meet a customer’s intended drilling date.
Samples processed on farm can be cleaned to very high standard because a high volume of screenings is not financially onerous for either party.
Farm processed seed allows you to make your call on what varieties to grow as they roll off the combine, if the JB Diego has yielded well then save it; that decision can be made at the last minute. If you want to secure favorable Certified seed deals then you have to make your judgment in May or June and experience shows that you just cannot accurately judge the quality of a standing crop.
Cash flow can be managed with farm processed seed at a time of year when this can be a real issue for the arable grower. The seed fraction of the cost is yours. It has been in the field for nearly a year and the cost spread out over that time. We charge to process and treat, not to supply you with the seed which you may already have on farm.
We know that we need a viable and innovative plant breeding industry, but this should not be at the expense of a farmer’s right to farm save his seed. The two routes to getting high quality seed into the ground should not be mutually exclusive. The mobile seed trade recognized this when we worked hand in hand with the BSPB to set up the royalty collection scheme. In many other countries in Europe similar schemes are not in place and the plant breeders are not receiving the monies that their efforts deserve. We would like to see a fair system of royalty collection is put in place in other countries within Europe. The global seed trade is gearing up for another assault on farm saved seed and you can be sure that we are doing everything we can to protect your right to save your seed.