Small farmers could pay higher levy on saved seed

16 April 2010

New EU proposals could force small farmers to pay higher royalties on farm saved seed, the Soil Association has warned.

The Soil Association wrote to Defra Secretary Hilary Benn at the end of February, urging him to oppose the proposals which would have particular impact on small-scale farmers who are currently exempt from having to make royalty payments for using farm saved seed.

“The proposals would add a financial and regulatory burden on small farmers who are already struggling to survive,” said Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director. “Our major worry is that the EU is taking steps to dissuade farmers from saving seed by the seed companies themselves. We have seen it in the US where the seed companies now force farmers to buy new seed, especially costly GM varieties, every year. This is only good for seed companies and bad for small farmers.”

In his written response to the Soil Association, Hilary Benn agreed that there was a need to safeguard small farmers’ interests:

“I am pleased to confirm that our views are broadly aligned with your own, and we look forward to working with the Soil Association to persuade others across the European Community to support us in any associated regulatory reviews or changes which may follow.

"Defra's current position is to maintain the right of farmers to save seed for their own use, with the objective of ensuring a balance between this right and the ability of plant breeders to collect royalties on farm saved seed.”

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