20 June 1997

Royalty change riles seed cleaners

MOBILE seed cleaners have launched a last minute attack on legislation going through parliament formalising the collection of royalties on farm saved seed.

In particular, they criticise the plan to end the "royalty free" status of older cereal varieties such as Riband and Hereward on June 30, 2001.

"This is completely at odds with the agreement reached by seed cleaners, breeders and the farming industry when this matter was discussed in Europe two years ago," claims Dick Bowler, chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors seed cleaning section.

"Exemption from royalties was one of the points which helped secure industry-wide support for the royalty system in the first place. Now the industry agreement looks like being dismissed and farmers will be the losers."

But the argument is rejected by the British Society of Plant Breeders. According to chief executive, Roger Turner, nothing has changed. "Article 116 of the 1994 Council regulation clearly states that the exemptions only last for seven years. Seed cleaners were well aware of that."

But the seed cleaners counter that, while this may be in the EU legislation, it was not part of the UK trade agreement, a view endorsed by the NFU which is pressing for an amendment to the Bill to preserve the exemption.

– BSPB says it has no intention of actually collecting royalties on older varieties. The quantity of seed around in 2001 will be so little and the level of royalty so small it will hardly be worth it, says Mr Turner.