Farm-Saved Seed – a mini-guide

Fair Play News

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BSPB are aware of the implications of the weather experienced so far this autumn on drilling and seed availability. We’re often asked if you can move seed, here is an explanation of the legal background.

Nearly all modern crop varieties are protected by Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR). The rights may be EU PBR or UK PBR. A protected variety may not be propagated or sold without the permission of the holder of the PBR. This is usually granted via a licence and requires payment of a royalty to the rights holder (breeder). This is how plant breeders derive their income for reinvestment in breeding new varieties.

There are some exceptions to PBR where the rights holder’s permission is not needed. One of these is the farm-saved seed or agricultural exemption. In the UK Plant Varieties Act “PBR shall not extend to the use by a farmer for propagating purposes in the field on his own holding of the product of the harvest which he has obtained by planting on his own holding propagating material of the protected variety”.

Similarly in the EU Plant Variety Rights Regulation “farmers are authorised to use for propagating purposes in the field, on their own holding, the product of the harvest which they have obtained by planting, on their own holding, propagating material of a variety other than a hybrid or synthetic variety, which is covered by a Community plant variety right”.

To qualify as farm-saved seed the seed must have been grown on the farmer’s own holding and resown on his own holding. Only then does the farmer benefit from the farm-saved seed exemption and may use the seed as propagating material provided that he declares this and makes the appropriate payment.

If seed does not meet the above definition is it not farm-saved seed.

Seed may not be traded or otherwise marketed, transferred or bartered, even if no money changes hands unless it is officially certified and the person doing the trade is licensed by Defra to trade in seed and by BSPB to trade in protected varieties. Unless these conditions are met the transfer of seed will be in breach of seeds marketing regulations (which are enforced by APHA) and infringe PBR (enforced by the holder of rights). It is irrelevant whether a farm-saved seed payment has been made if the seed is not re-sown on the farmer’s own holding.

Where grain is brought in by a farmer and then sown as seed, there is no breach of seeds marketing regulations but there is an infringement of PBR as the farmer does not have permission from the holder of rights, the breeder, to use this material as propagating material and the breeder has not had opportunity to collect a royalty for the use of the variety. The breeder is entitled to seek an injunction to prevent the farmer continuing to grow the crop and/or compensation for the infringement of PBR.

See also
http://www.fairplay.org.uk/farm-saved-seed-faqs.html

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/farm-saved-seed
 
Don't get me wrong I'm supporter of royalties and have no problem paying them but what was the logic behind making it illegal for farmers to trade seed between each other?

I suppose you could see it as a "quality" issue whereby a farmer sells his mate some seed and as not certified it could have been a bit duff etc. I'm wondering what other rationale behind it?
 

MF 168

Member
Location
Laois, Ireland
Isn't there a time frame on a variety before royalties are no longer applicable?. Something like 20 years I think. I could be way off though?.
 

Fair Play News

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So if my neighbour has a pile of spring barley he is permitted to sell me some as seed provided he has the permission of the plant breeder?
Hi, your neighbour cannot sell you any of the spring barley as seed for sowing. Only certified seed can be sold legally and the seller must be licensed by APHA and if the variety is protected, also by BSPB.
 

Fair Play News

Member
Isn't there a time frame on a variety before royalties are no longer applicable?. Something like 20 years I think. I could be way off though?.
For most crops, plant breeders' rights last for 25 years, for potatoes it is 30 years. No royalties are payable after the rights have expired.
 

Fair Play News

Member
Don't get me wrong I'm supporter of royalties and have no problem paying them but what was the logic behind making it illegal for farmers to trade seed between each other?

I suppose you could see it as a "quality" issue whereby a farmer sells his mate some seed and as not certified it could have been a bit duff etc. I'm wondering what other rationale behind it?
Seeds marketing regulations require that seed is officially certified to be marketed. You are right in that this is a consumer protection issue linked with security of food production. Certification means that the seed is of known provenance and quality, and meets official standards of varietal purity, pest and disease and germination.
 

Fair Play News

Member
money as the PBR is likely held by companies such as monsanto or RGT or whoever who have done the genetics to prevent rust - ie they want to recoup their R+D costs.. (or likely 10x the costs)
It's seeds marketing regs that prevents the sale of uncertified seed. Under PBR legislation, seed of a protected variety can't be sold without a licence from the breeder (or from BSPB acting on the breeder's behalf). The licence enables the breeder to charge a royalty for the use of the variety he has bred and developed, not a cheap activity, a competitive wheat breeding programme in the UK costs about £1.5-2 million a year to run. The royalty and the payments on farm saved seed are the only source of income the breeder has to fund his R & D and breed new varieties.
 

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