8 August 2001
Farm-saved seed in ‘scare campaign’

By Isabel Davies

MISLEADING information is being used to scare growers away from using farm saved seed (FSS), claim farmers leaders and contractors.

Farmers are led to believe that FSS could jeopardise area payments, says the National Association of Agricultural Contractors and the National Farmers Union.

Parties with an interest in selling certified seed imply that the process has become more difficult and there are complicated legal implications, they say.

NFU chief arable adviser Paul Ibbott said he is concerned by statements from the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) and merchant body UKASTA.

“They are crafting words to really alarm people by suggesting they will lose payments,” he said. “It oversteps the mark in creating unnecessary anxiety.”

The NAAC says there are no new seed regulations affecting FSS this year and insists that arable farmers should not be put off by these suggestions.

The only possible change this year is that farmers will be asked on their IACS forms to verify that they are not contravening seed regulations, it claims.

NAAC executive officer Jill Hewitt said FSS can save producers 25-50% of costs compared to using certified seed, even after royalty collection.

“Provided seed has been grown on the farmers own holding and is kept planted within the holding number … he is doing nothing wrong,” she said.

Mr Ibbott said the NFU was seeking clarification on one potential problem area, the exact definition of a holding in relation to FSS.

The BSPB says that FSS can only be sown on the holding it was grown. Growers with more than one holding cannot produce FSS on one holding for use on another.

But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs usual interpretation of a holding is all land under one IACS claim in one member state.

Roger Turner, chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders, denied that misleading information was going out to producers from his organisation.

But he said efforts were being made to ensure that growers know the rules of the scheme.

Producers have been reminded that farm-savers must also pay a royalty to the BSPB for seed used on their own holding and hybrid varieties cannot be saved.

The BSPB has also warned farmers who sell, barter or give farm-saved seed to neighbours they will be pursued with a view to a prosecution.

Jim Reed, chief executive of UKASTA, agreed there had been some discussion in recent months about enforcing scheme rules and penalties.

Government agencies and the industry had a responsibility to make the rules clear to growers, he stressed.

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