Friday, May 7, 2010

One of those nasty things they like to slip into trade agreements

You may or may not have heard proposals for free trade with the European Union. On the surface this sounds like it could be okay; at least it would provide another market to lessen our dependence on the US. However, the devil is always in the details with these things. The Star article linked there points out some concerns, including the fact that provisions of Ontario's Green Energy Act that require domestic sourcing may run afoul of this agreement. However, the article fails to mention some of the more unsettling aspects:

Eliminate the Right to Save Seed?

The trade deal would almost entirely eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed.

Plant varieties can be protected as intellectual property through Plant Breeders Rights as well as patents on genes. The trade deal would give rights holders an unprecedented degree of control over seeds and farming by committing Canada to adopt UPOV'91, the draconian 1991 version of The International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. The inclusion of UPOV'91 in the deal is completely unnecessary and is excessively harmful to Canadian farmers. Seed breeders would have the right to collect royalties on seed at any point in the food chain!

The draft of the trade deal also says that biotech corporations could seize the crops, equipment, and farms, and freeze the bank accounts of farmers who are deemed patent infringers, like farmers who find unwanted contamination in their fields.

End Supply Management?

The deal would commit Canada to reducing or eliminating agricultural subsidies and other government supports to farmers over time. Supply management systems that have allowed farmers in the dairy, poultry, and egg sectors to earn a decent living are under attack. The Canadian Wheat Board (a farmer controlled grain marketer) is also very likely under threat.

Source (h/t pogge). They've been trying to do this for some time, of course; we'd best be vigilant to ensure they don't succeed. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the EU is more leery of it than our own government, but we shouldn't count on that to scuttle the deal.

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