“Bill C-18, the “Agricultural Growth Act” omnibus bill, amending several federal agricultural laws, was introduced in Parliament on December 9, 2013. If passed, it will give multi-national agri-business much more money, power and control while increasing farmers’ costs and reducing farmers’ autonomy and Canadian sovereignty.” National Farmers Union (NFU).
On March 19 Jonathan Kornelsen and I met with Megan Leslie, MP for Halifax, NDP Deputy Minister and Environment Critic, to present the petition “The Right to Save Seeds” with 145 signatures on behalf of the Food Action Committee of Ecology Action Center. A friend of Jonathan’s had quickly filled three pages of signatures simply by talking to people at a grocery store before he ran out of sheets!
The petition addresses the “Agricultural Growth Act” portion of Bill C-18 which has raised serious concerns amongst farmers and consumers. The petition was obtained from the National Farmers Union website (see below for the text.)
Megan was well-prepared and knowledgeable, saying she has frequent conversations with Malcolm Allen, the NDP Agriculture Critic, and had spoken with him about this issue prior to our visit. Our meeting was a relaxed exchange of information, questions and discussion, with Megan advising us of the position of the NDP and the workings of the political process. Because we received more than 25 signatures she can present our petition in Parliament!
It was a great learning and rewarding experience for Jonathan and me. Megan instilled confidence in us that grassroots actions such as petitions, demonstrations, and meeting with your MP do have an impact. Politicians do take note of these actions.
I found that the NFU website provided excellent educational and action resources including background information on C-18) and other issues – just use the search box for issues you’re interested in. It gives advocacy suggestions including how to meet with your MP, and information sheets that can be given to them. NFU works in collaboration with such organizations as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) on issues affecting farmers and consumers.
Meeting with Megan was a great education for us and gave us confidence to continue to take food action! I was delighted to have Jonathan join me – a fledgling FAC member with two meetings under his belt, a background in biology, experience working on a farm in BC, and lots of knowledge and passion. Glad he decided to see what’s going on in NS.
We hope you’d be inspired to meet with your MP too. Learn about the issue and relax – our MP’s are working for us.
Written by: Mary Ellen Sullivan, Food Action Committee volunteer
Petition wording from the National Farmers Union (you can download petitions here)
THE RIGHT TO SAVE SEEDS PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED
We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, recognize the inherent rights of farmers—derived from thousands of years of custom and tradition—to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds. Current and newly-proposed restrictions on farmers’ traditional practices—resulting from commercial contracts, identity preservation (IP) systems, and/or legislation—criminalize these ancient practices and harm farmers, citizens, and society in general.
Therefore, your petitioners call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act through Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, that would further restrict farmers’ rights or add to farmers’ costs. Further, we call upon Parliament to enshrine, in legislation, the inalienable rights of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.