Last week, Organic Seed Alliance’s Outreach Director Cathleen McCluskey traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in meetings at the White House and at The Capitol on addressing competition issues through the 2023 Farm Bill. We were honored to be invited to the White House and Department of Agriculture Listening Session on Competition Legislative Priorities, which included 16 food and agriculture advocacy organizations representing a range of communities, and representatives from the White House Office of Public Engagement, USDA, National Economic Council, and Domestic Policy Council. We also participated in the House Democratic Task Force on Agriculture and Nutrition in the 21st Century’s 2023 Farm Bill Roundtable at The Capitol chaired by Representative Bennie G. Thompson.
Our comments for both meetings focused on ways in which the egregious use of utility patents used on seed drives the consolidation of power in the seed industry, and drew on our 2023 Policy Platform for Seed for solutions to addressing it in the 2023 Farm Bill. We called on the White House, USDA, and the House Democratic Task Force on Agriculture and Nutrition in the 21st Century to do the following:
- Reform patent law to exclude living organisms, including seeds, plant varieties, and genetic traits, and that patents used on seed include an exemption on seed saving, breeding, and research. We also asked that the Plant Variety Protection Act serve as the strongest form of IP protection associated with seed.
- Draw attention to and support the Seeds and Breeds for the Future Act introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Act supports research and development of ready-to-use, regionally-adapted, and publicly available seed varieties and animal breeds. These investments would help farmers confront drought and varying growing conditions by providing improved plant and animal varieties that are developed to suit their specific regions’ growing conditions.
- Place a moratorium on new seed mergers in the agricultural sector and a statutory cap on levels of concentration in agricultural markets.
- Take action on all of the recommendations outlined in the Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Input Industries report released by the USDA last March.
OSA applauds the Biden Administration for its attention to seed as part of the July 9, 2021, Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. One message was clear across the board at the White House and on Capitol Hill last week – farmers and seed growers need action for fair markets now.