27 June 1997

Royalty freedom could be ended

FARMERS look set to have lost royalty-free status on older cereal varieties, such as Riband and Hereward, following the passing of the plant varieties Bill through the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Jeff Rooker, junior farm minister, rejected claims by the National Association of Agricultural Contractors and the NFU that the ending of the royalties exemption broke the two-year old industry-wide agreement over the royalty system.

Mr Rooker said the Bill, which now goes through to the Lords, would not threaten the royalty agreement and was in line with EU legislation.

As a result, older cereal varieties will have their royalty free status lifted from June 30, 2001. But NFU parliamentary spokesman Barney Holbeche said there was no reason for plant breeders to impose royalties from that time.

Dick Bowler, NAAC chairman of the seed cleaning section, said he hoped amendments could be tabled in the Lords.

was less optimistic, saying it would extend the power of plant breeders allowing them to have a stranglehold on imported seed.

Mr Bowler was disappointed that the bill had gone through all its Commons stages within one day, though amendments may be tabled when the bill comes before the Lords next week.