Plant breeders defend royalties


4 December 2001



Plant breeders defend royalties

By Tom Allen-Stevens and Debbie Beaton

THE British Society of Plant Breeders has defended its stance on the amount and scope of royalties on farm saved seed (FSS).

Breeders income fell by 13% in 2000-01, compared to five years ago, said Christopher Green, managing director of Semundo.

“More telling is that income from certified seed royalties fell by 24% in the same period,” he said at the societys annual lunch in London on Tuesday (4 December).

Meanwhile the proportion of income from FSS has risen from just 8% in 1996-7 to 20% last year, while the use of certified seed is falling.

“The stark reality is that plant breeders are increasingly reliant on income from farm-saved seed payments to sustain current levels of breeding activity.”

His comments follow last weeks announcement of an extension of FSS on potato seed, condemned by the National Farmers Union.

The Union says the society went ahead with the arrangements without its support, and is suspicious of a database being compiled of growers planting FSS.

Mr Green said that royalties were now due on a very limited number of varieties, and were an important source of income for the UK-based potato-breeding sector.

He also touched on a study, published in September in Mexico, which says cross-pollination has occurred between genetically modified and conventional maize crops.

The cross-pollination was condemned by Greenpeace as genetic “pollution”, but pro-GM lobby group CropGen have dismissed the findings as insignificant.

“It simply demonstrates what farmers and scientists have known for many years – that movement of genes through cross-pollination is a natural phenomenon.

“Its a public misconception that this is a GM problem and we must strive to reverse that misconception,” said Mr Green.

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