A DETERMINED drive by plant breeders to recover all the seed royalties legally due to them was launched at Cereals 2005.
‘Fair Play’ aims to get back the estimated 10%, or £2m a year, that they lose when farmers, for whatever reason, fail to pay for saving seed.
The campaign, backed by the farming unions and with government blessing, should make all growers clear about their legal obligations, said Chris Green, British Society of Plant Breeders chairman.
Mr Green stressed how full rewards to breeders were vital to sustain the flow of new varieties best suited to UK growers’ needs in post-CAP reform markets.
“No business can accept 10% leakage from its bottom line.”
The UK’s winter bean programme was in danger of grinding to halt, he warned.
“Without a fair return on investment, plant breeders will simply not be able to maintain the dedicated breeding programmes needed to meet the unique climatic, agronomic and end-use demands facing UK farmers.”
Key to the campaign is a new database, achieved through “serious investment”, which should help BSPB pursue defaulting farm-saved seed users.
Revised licensing conditions mean merchants could also be used to help identify them.
Already a pilot exercise using the database is said to have recovered £60,000 from about 200 growers.
Although there was provision to make claims retrospectively over three years, Mr Green said the BSPB would be pragmatic. “We are not witch-hunting.”
The campaign, launched with posters and leaflets to raise awareness of the issues involved, also has a new website www.fairplay.org.uk