Plant breeders remain concerned by the level of farm-saved seed royalty evasion, despite a 38% increase in direct farmer payments.

Announcing the results of the first year of the British Society of Plant Breeders’ Fair Play campaign at the Cereals event, Syngenta Seeds’ Gary Mills Thomas said the news was both good and bad.

“Total farm-saved seed royalty income was up 14% at £4.5m, we’ve had good progress in raising awareness and cross-industry support, and a positive response from growers to direct mailings.”

But, he said, the society was worried that a decline in certified seed sales in the autumn of 2005 combined with further increases in farm-saved seed use meant that little impact was being made on the royalties black hole.

“Evasion is still a serious issue.

We believe it is still worth about £2m.”

BSPB figures showed total farm-saved seed royalty collection in monetary terms was up 8.3% on 2004 for winter wheat, up 9% for winter barley and up 25% for winter oilseed rape.

The biggest increase – 45% – was for winter beans, Mr Mills-Thomas noted.

“We had a view winter beans were generally being taken from the barn and planted in the field [leading to] a lot of evasion.

The increase in collections is a good reflection on the campaign.”

The BSPB confirmed no prosecutions of evaders had taken place since the launch of the campaign, mainly because of the difficulty in gathering evidence.

But it said the “net was closing” thanks to its £200,000 investment in a database which now contained details of 24,000 growers.

“We will be using the database to verify declarations and build up a picture of farmers’ seed purchases and farm-saved seed declarations,” Mr Mills-Thomas explained.

“The value of the database will be seen over successive seasons.”