Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
What I see in Bill C-18 is that the minister is being given a great deal of discretion. This means that regardless of the laws that govern agriculture in Canada, if a friend of the minister manages to bend his ear, the minister will circumvent the law. If we have paid all our dues and done everything right but someone influences the minister, anyone of us can be told that we cannot even harvest our crops—even if we have bought the seeds and planted them.
The minister has been given far too much power. We live in a democratic system and we have a legal system complete with courts. Normally, it is up to the courts, not just one minister, to determine whether a right is given or taken away from someone.
Something else is bothering me. We are talking about breeders' rights, but it should be farmers' rights. Since time immemorial, everyone has had the right to collect a seed, plant it and harvest the fruits. Now we are being told that it is not a right, but a privilege. We are now living in a society where rights are being taken away from everyone and we are told that they are privileges. I agree that a driver's licence is a privilege, but many other things are natural rights: to grow things or to be able to walk and talk, for example. In the legal texts, we should change the word “privilege” to “right”. As for the minister, he should be granted “privileges” and not “rights”. That is how the bill should read.
There is one more thing that is of great concern to me. Last week, I spoke for 10 minutes about malicious prosecution. This bill will likely result in this type of problem. I will give an example. In my region, there is an organic farmer who uses only organic seeds. He raises his animals organically. Nevertheless, his neighbour grows GMOs. Everyone knows that grain is wind-pollinated. Vegetables are pollinated by insects. We cannot control the wind or insects. There are no borders between fields. Just by chance, it was noticed that there were genetically-modified vegetables among those harvested and replanted. That was a disaster for the organic farmer. Not only did the company that owned the GMO in question not want to reimburse the organic farmer, even though it is the one that contaminated his fields with its GMOs, but it is going to require the organic farmer to pay royalties.
That is what we call abusive litigation. I believe that under the law, those who want to farm in their own way must also be able to harvest, reuse and stock according to their type of crop. There are small corners of the country where grain is grown and the same grain always comes back. These are regional varieties.
Then along comes some company that wants to trample on these regional farmers and impose its own varieties. It sows the new variety in a field among 10 other fields where heirloom varieties grow. There is contamination. It has happened before and it will happen again. The company that did the contamination sues everyone and wants royalties from all the land around it, claiming that the farmer spread pollen all around. A lot of this abusive litigation goes on. I talked about Kokopelli before. It is the target of abusive litigation by French breeders. In France, UPOV '91 was adopted a long time ago, and major multinationals are taking advantage of that.
There is another thing that concerns me about this bill, and that is cascading royalties. When I buy a car, I pay the fees, the taxes and so forth and then I use it. Let us say that after 50,000 kilometres, the company comes along and tells me that if I want to keep using the car, I will have to pay for it all over again. My vehicle works just fine. They are surprised and they charge royalties. The same thing happens at 75,000 kilometres and 100,000 kilometres. That too is an example of cascading royalties. A farmer buys a top-quality product and grows it conscientiously on his land. He puts time, money and everything necessary into it, regardless the method he uses, and he gets a good yield. Then, because he has a better yield than the third farmer who planted the same product, he is charged an additional royalty. As it turns out, because of weather problems elsewhere that summer, his product is worth more money. He is charged another royalty. I call that cascading abusive royalties. Then, if people fight to get his product because it is so great, he will be charged more royalties. Those are cascading abusive royalties.
Can Bill C-18 protect him from that or can the minister, with all the privileges he is being granted, protect the farmer? What I see in this bill, as with almost all of the Conservative government's bills, is that it protects big corporations and leaves small businesses to fend for themselves.
It is also important to protect access to heirloom, heritage and public varieties. It is important that we continue to have access to seeds that have proven their worth for hundreds of years.