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January 27, 2014 - No. 4

Parliament Opens Today

Canadians from Coast to Coast to Coast Oppose Harper's Dictatorship

Actions by Postal Workers to Oppose
the Harper Dictatorship's Nation-Wrecking



Mass action in Ottawa, January 26, 2014.

Halifax
Postal Workers Rally
Monday, January 27 -- 7:30-9:00 am

Almon St. Post Office, 6175 Almon St.
Organized by: Halifax-Darmouth & District Labour Council
For information: Facebook

Community-Labour Planning Meeting
Wednesday, February 5 -- 6:00 pm

Labour Temple, 3700 Kempt

Moncton
Day of Action
Monday, January 27
6:30-8:30am -- Information picket, Dieppe Postal plant,
680 Malenfant and at the Mark Avenue letter carrier depot
9:30 am -- Information picket @ Conservative MLA Caucus meeting,
587 Mountain Road
11:30 am -- Information picket, Canada Post Retail store, 281 St-George Street
4:00 pm -- Demo at MP Robert Goguen's office, 34 King Street
For information: Line Doucet, CUPW Moncton, 380-3401

Hamilton
Postal Workers Rally
 Monday, January 27 -- 3:00 pm

Federal Building, 55 Bay Street North

London
Postal Workers Rally
Monday, January 27 -- 4:30-7:30 pm

Highbury and Oxford
For information: CUPW Local 566 President Dean Woronoski, 519- 476-6208

Windsor
Postal Workers Rally
Monday, January 27 -- 4:30 pm

City Hall Square

Victoria
"Hands Off Our Public Post Office"
Monday, January 27 -- 12:00 noon

Yates Street Post Office
For information: Facebook

Keep the Post Office Public!
Postal Workers Rally Against Canada Post's Attacks

In the Parliament
Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act -- Growth for Whom? - Jan Slomp, President, National Farmers Union
New Vision Proposed for Canadian Seed Ownership - National Farmers Union
Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seed Act - National Farmers Union


Keep the Post Office Public!

Postal Workers Rally Against Canada Post's Attacks

On January 26, some 3,000 postal workers and their supporters marched through the streets of Ottawa and rallied in front of the Prime Minister's Office to demand that the Harper government reverse the decisions to end home delivery, raise postal rates and eliminate 8,000 jobs over the next few years. Postal workers and community groups from Ottawa were joined by postal workers from Montreal and many distant communities in Quebec -- Sherbrooke, Victoriaville, Thetford Mines, Quebec City, just to name a few. Postal workers also came from Toronto, Scarborough and other cities from Southern Ontario. They were joined by other unions, union members and members of the public.

All along the route to the PMO, the workers were warmly supported and encouraged by passers-by in downtown Ottawa. In spite of the bitterly cold weather many people came out on their balconies or leaned out of windows to shout greetings and support for the postal workers as they passed.

Several speakers addressed the chanting demonstrators in front of Prime Minister Harper's Office at the Langevin Block expressing their support for the struggles that the workers are waging. They included: Gayle Bossenberry, 1st National Vice-President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW); Sylvain Lapointe, CUPW National Director, Montreal Region; Sean McKenny, Ottawa and District Labour Council; Serge Leblanc, human rights activist; Serge Cadieux, Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ); Sid Ryan, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL); Alexandre Boulerice, NDP MP (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie); Brenda McAuley, National President, Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA); and Chris Aylward, National Executive Vice-President, Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Speakers denounced the Harper government and Canada Post for imposing such drastic cutbacks as a surprise attack and ignoring the needs of elderly and disabled people for whom home mail delivery is a must. The speakers all pledged to support postal workers in their struggle to defend the public post office.

A full report on the Ottawa demonstration and what the workers had to say, as well as actions across Canada will be published in Tuesday's TML Daily.

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In the Parliament

Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act --
Growth for Whom?

On December 9th 2013, Omnibus Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act went to Parliament for first reading. Passing Bill C-18 would make Canada compliant with UPOV ‘91, a much more restrictive form of Plant Breeders' Rights than we currently have. The second part of the Act will prepare Canada's regulatory regime for fast track approval of feed or food additives, drugs or other inventions that are already approved in jurisdictions we trade with. Bill C-18 also opens the door for farmers to tap into multi-year advance payments secured by crops in storage or grown in the future.

After a groundswell of farmer-led opposition to adopting UPOV '91 in 2005, the Liberal government of the day let it quietly die, as it became clear that farmers would be drastically restricted in their ability to save, reuse, exchange and sell seed. The Canadian public clearly demanded that genetic resources remain a public good.

Before reintroducing UPOV '91 through Bill C-18, Agriculture Minister Ritz has been actively spreading the myth and managing to convince many farm organizations and commodity groups that saving seed is enshrined in this bill., . It is obvious that UPOV '91 gives plant breeders significantly more "rights " and tools for royalty collection, while farmers' seed-saving right is reduced merely to "privilege." A privilege was typically given to peasants by feudal lords, and could be arbitrarily and unpredictably retracted.

A closer look at the text of Bill C-18 reveals that indeed, it talks about a farmer's ability to save seed. When storing that saved seed however, the farmer needs the permission of the holder of the Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) -- which may or may not be given. Of course the breeder has the right to charge royalties as well.

Bill C-18 in fact also empowers government to remove, restrict or limit the farmer's seed-saving privilege by passing regulations, a process that can happen quickly and without public debate.


The Cereal Research Centre at the University of Winnipeg, which does important work on wheat and oats breeding, improving cereal quality and the resistance to diseases and insects. Its closure in April 2014 was announced in the 2012 budget and the work of seed-breeding will become the domain of private monopolies.

UPOV' 91 has many provisions for royalty collection after a crop has been harvested, when seed is cleaned in seed cleaning plants or when a crop is moved off the farm for sale at elevators and other points of transaction, in the year the crop was harvested or any year after that.

Canada should reject UPOV '91 and defeat Bill C-18. Instead, we should reinforce our public plant breeding programs. With the continued allocation of farmer check-off dollars, there will be ample funding for essential variety development. There is absolutely no need to grant transnational plant breeders more tools to extract excessive funds from farmers. Adopting UPOV '91 may result in some genetic improvements of crops, but at significantly higher costs than a public breeding system -- which benefits the whole Canadian economy. UPOV '91 would result in significantly higher costs for farmers and growth in profits for Bayer, Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta and other seed and chemical companies headquartered outside of our country.

Jan Slomp is President of the National Farmers Union. He holistically manages a 65-cow dairy farm near Rimbey, Alberta.

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New Vision Proposed for Canadian Seed Ownership

Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act favours further consolidation of the seed industry into a few corporate hands, which will end up costing farmers more for seeds of all types.

"The government is selling the ag omnibus legislation as `the only way' to provide the new plant varieties that farmers need to maintain their competitive advantage," says Terry Boehm, Chair of the NFU's Seed and Trade Committee. "We - and many other farmers and progressive thinkers in the world - know that there are other ways to ensure that farmers have access to new seed varieties in ways that do not compromise either our national sovereignty or our control over seeds and, therefore, over our food."

The NFU has put forward "Fundamental Principles for a Farmers' Seed Act" which recognizes the inherent rights of farmers to save, reuse, select, exchange and sell seeds, while protecting public domains related to plant seeds. The principles build on Canada's 2002 signing of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, by which farmers would retain their "customary" use of seed.

Boehm asserts one reason only for agribusiness's pursuit of these legislative changes, especially implementation of UPOV '91, a much more restrictive intellectual property rights protection regime than what is now in place. "UPOV '91 is a way to transfer enormous amounts of money from farmers' pockets into corporate coffers," he argued.

Boehm outlined the NFU's Farmers' Seed Act, which assures the right to exchange and sell, as well as clean, treat and store seed. "Farmers - in fact Canadians - cannot allow giant corporations to take control of our seed resources," said Boehm. "Those who control seed control food, and as a sovereign nation we must ensure that control of seed and food is protected in the public interest. The NFU Farmers Seed Act will make a major contribution to that goal."

The Act's principles address the full spectrum of activities involved in ensuring Canada's sovereignty in the area of seeds - from reproduction, saving, storing and re-using to cleaning and treating; from variety registration to third-party dispute settlement mechanisms; as well as restrictions on royalty claims, among others. "Canadians have lost a lot over the last two years," notes Boehm. "Research budgets have been gutted. Canada's world-recognized research programs have been torn apart. Agencies with the specific role of balancing power relationships among farmers and giant international agri-businesses have been weakened or dismantled, while corporations have been given carte blanche over the seed industry and thus our food system."

"This "Farmers' Seed Act", which is based on principles that serve public rather than private interests, is a rallying point for farmer and eater alike," emphasized Boehm. "All Canadians can stand behind its principles. By calling for our elected officials to act on these principles, we give a strong message about the kind of Canada we want - a Canada that is sovereign in regard to seed and food," he concluded.

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Fundamental Principles of a Farmers Seed Act

The National Farmers Union calls for a new Seed Act for Farmers in which Canada recognizes the inherent rights of farmers-derived from thousands of years of custom and tradition-to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds. Current and proposed restrictions on farmers' traditional practices, whether from commercial contracts, identity preservation (IP) systems, or legislation-criminalize these ancient practices and harm farmers, citizens, and society in general.

Canadians therefore call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act 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.

In 2002 Canada ratified the United Nations International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. As a signatory to this treaty, Canada:

- recognizes the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centres of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world.

- agrees not to limit any rights that farmers have to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material, subject to national law and as appropriate.

In accordance with this Treaty, and with the support of Canadians who desire a strong, healthy democratically controlled food system, we propose that Canada develop and implement a Seed Act for Farmers that would allow farmers to retain customary use of seed.[1] The fundamental principles of such a law include:

- The right of farmers to exchange and sell seed, including through farmer-owned organizations such as cooperatives, non- profit organizations and associations.

- The unrestricted right of farmers to grow, save and use seed for planting which cannot be negated by any contract. This right would be supported by

- unrestricted right to clean seed
- unrestricted right to store seed
- unrestricted right to prepare seed for planting, including applying seed treatments
- unrestricted establishment of new seed cleaning plants
- unrestricted access to seed cleaning equipment and parts.

- Seed cleaning operations are an integral part of the seed system and thus

- shall not be prosecuted for the cleaning of protected varieties for a third party
- cannot be compelled to give out their client lists.

- Plant breeders rights legislation that would confer the right to claim royalties only at the time of seed sale. (i.e. no endpoint royalties or cascading rights).

- Following expiration of plant breeders rights, varieties would be in the public domain allowing for unrestricted use and/or made available under a general public license.[2]

- The opportunity for farmers and other non-accredited plant breeders to register new varieties.

- A variety registration system that would protect farmers and our food system by ensuring seed that meets farmers' needs for quality, reliability and agronomic performance under local conditions across Canada is available. This system would make distinctions in requirements for varieties to be used in conventional or organic production when necessary. Such a system would:

- ensure that varieties remain in the public domain following the expiration of plant breeders' rights;
- allow varieties to be registered under a general public license to ensure that such varieties remain freely available to farmers and public plant breeders;
- prohibit cancellation of varieties by the variety registrant;
- allow the cancelling of registration for varieties only if evidence, including input from Recommending Committees, supported the cancellation;
- have an accessible public appeal mechanism regarding registration and deregistration of varieties to support the public interest. For example, to prevent the registration of unwanted genetically modified varieties; to maintain registration of older varieties;
- require robust, independent third-party merit testing for new varieties to ensure they are as good as or better than existing varieties, which takes into account market harm, ecological impacts, multiple farming systems, nutrition, disease resistance and other relevant factors;
- formally recognize the value of land races that are not intended to have uniformity and stability as defining characteristics, establishing mechanisms to allow heritage plant varieties such as Red Fife Wheat to be utilized in appropriate rotations and markets

- A dispute settlement process that uses due process that would ensure

- inspection and sampling would be done only with the farmer's explicit permission and in the presence of, and verified by, a qualified neutral third party.
- binding arbitration carried out by a public commission would settle questions of infringement, etc. between farmers and companies. Such a commission would be modelled on the process used by the Canadian Grain Commission in settling grain grading disputes.
- No possibility that the production of seed could ever be considered counterfeiting or a violation of trademark.

- Prohibition of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs), sometimes referred to as Terminator Technology.

- No gene patents or other patent mechanisms on seed.

Notes

1. "Seed" means seed and/or propagating material throughout this document.

2. A general public license is a binding legal agreement that makes germplasm available to plant breeders on the condition that it must likewise be made available to other breeders under a general public license, and without further restriction.

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