Thinking of trying soybeans? Then steer clear of illegitimate seed

Unscrupulous seed sellers are bringing seed across the border 
that’s not suited for Alberta or is under patent protection

If someone who isn’t a certified seed dealer offers you a good deal on soybeans, it’s probably too good to be true.

Although it hasn’t been seen in Alberta directly yet, there have been reports of sellers peddling illegitimate Roundup Ready trait soybeans in Western Canada.

Lorne Hadley

Lorne Hadley

“We know that some of these illegitimate sellers are setting up dealer networkers and they are attempting to set up dealer networks in Alberta,” said Lorne Hadley, a Landis, Sask.-area grain farmer and executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency, a member-owned non-profit that educates, monitors, and enforces plant breeders’ rights among other intellectual property tools.

Soybeans aren’t a common crop in Alberta, but are grown in the south of the province and new shorter-season varieties may see northward expansion, said Hadley, who grows soybeans on his farm about 80 miles from Saskatoon.

In 2011, Monsanto’s patent on the first Roundup Ready trait in soybeans expired. Some illegitimate sellers may be selling or trading soybean seed, but these varieties are covered by plant breeders’ rights or other patents. These intellectual property tools mean seed can’t be traded between farmers.

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In most cases, the companies selling soybeans that had Roundup Ready One had direct agreements or sales contracts where producers agreed not to trade common seed of Roundup Ready One varieties.

Farmers who buy seeds through an illegitimate dealer, especially if they are a first-time grower of that crop, have no way of knowing if they might be getting themselves into a legal problem, said Hadley.

And buying illegitimate soybeans is bad practice because of the length of time you don’t know if they are suited to your area.

“Someone who is buying common soybeans from someone else on a seller claim that is not backed up by varietal ID is taking a huge risk,” said Hadley. “Unscrupulous sellers can go to the U.S., buy some good-looking soybeans, bring them to Canada, clean them up, and sell them as common seed without regulation or enforcement.

“You plant these soybeans and they may come up just great but they never mature.”

Illegitimate dealers often claim there is a shortage of seed to push a sale or offer a price that is too good to be true.

“Either the person selling it shouldn’t be selling it because of intellectual property rules like plant breeders’ rights or the quality is questionable,” he said.

The best thing to do is to always buy seeds from a retailer that has experience in the crop that you’re wanting to grow, said Hadley.

“Even if it’s not in Alberta, go to someone who has connections to a reputable soybean firm so you can get some advice during the growing season. Don’t buy from some guy off the back of a half-ton who is gone the next day.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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