Seed rights settlements costs farmer $150K

A farmer from Moose Jaw, Sask., who made unauthorized sales of two protected seed varieties has agreed to pay a penalty of $150,000.

Harvey Marcil of Pasqua Farms will pay a $150,000 settlement stemming from unauthorized sale of CDC Bethune flax and AC Strongfield durum.

Marcil also agreed to refrain from selling the two varieties without proper authorization.

Distribution rights for the two PBR protected varieties protected under plant  breeders rights legislation are held by SeCan.

The settlement is the largest of its kind involving illegal sales of SeCan genetics.

The largest previous settlement was a $130,000 agreement reached in 2013.

The most recent settlement was particularly concerning to SeCan and the western Canadian flax industry because CDC Bethune is one of a handful of reconstituted flax varieties that were tested and re-developed to ensure that they did not contain traces of the banned genetically modified variety, CDC Triffid.

The presence of Triffid in commercial shipments of Canadian flax cost the Canadian flax industry millions of dollars in lost sales and costly remediation efforts.

“This was a particularly concerning situation as the industry has invested considerable resources launching re-constituted seed supplies of several flax varieties,” said Todd Hyra, SeCan business manager for western Canada.

“Having an individual profit while perpetuating an industry problem was taken very seriously.”

SeCan officials did not release full details of the Marcil case, but they emphasized the need for vigilance and awareness on behalf of seed sellers, processors and buyers.

In a Feb. 18 news release announcing the settlement, SeCan said PBR infringements can result in the repayment of lost royalties, investigative and legal costs, and other damages.

Canada’s PBR rules have always permitted the use of farm-saved seed but they prohibit the unauthorized sale of a protected variety.

New PBR ’91 rules, which took effect in February 2015, place additional obligations of sellers, processors and buyers.

“Previously only the seller was liable for an illegal sale,” Hyra said.

“The big change under PBR ’91 is that everyone associated with an illegal sale is potentially liable — this includes the seller, processor, and the individual who buys the seed.”

Grain handlers can also be held responsible, as rights extend to the harvested material.

“If we want access to the best genetics, plant breeders from Canada and around the world need to know the Canadian industry is playing by the rules,” Hyra said.

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*Western Producer

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