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Breeders Trust sues Belgian farmers and a French Fry Manufacturer for illegal multiplication of seed potatoes.

Breeders Trust sues Belgian farmers and a French Fry Manufacturer for illegal multiplication of seed potatoes.
October 22, 2013
Breeders Trust, an organisation set up by seed potato companies to enforce proper contributions by farmers for use of proprietary potato varieties, has sued two Belgian Farmers for infraction of breeders rights of the potato varieties Agria, Asterix, Fontane and Innovator.

According to Breeders Trust these farmers have violated on a large scale their legal obligations for on farm multiplication of seed potatoes - multiplied for use as seed potatoes in later years. The case concerns 500 hectare of such seed potatoes.

Also a manufacturer of french fries - reportedly inciting the non-payment of dues for these types of seed potatoes is taken to court.

The action follows after Breeders Trust recently - with court permission - seized the books of the involved farmers in the Antwerpse Kempen and Limburg. The fee for the use of the on farm use seed potatoes was circumvented by not registering the acreage with Breeders Trust.
In response, one of the farmers stated that the buyer of his potatoes, a large french fry manufacturer, encouraged Belgian potato farmers to skip the registration with Breeders Trust and hence the fees.

"Geert Staring, managing director of Breeders Trust responds: "This is serious. A number of farmers will always try to get away with not paying their fees, assuming the probability of detection for failing to register their potatoes is low. But an orchestrated suggestion not to pay by a large french fry manufacturer is highly damaging to the interests of our breeders and to all farmers who register their acreage of seed potatoes for in house use as they are supposed to."

"The consequences for those involved is indeed significant. The Belgian agricultural sector has agreed that for the production of farm seed only 50 % of the usual license fee has to be paid. However, once it is established that a farmer attempts to evade its obligations, based on European regulations an "appropriate compensation"is payable, which in Belgium is double the normal license fee. Furthermore, if it is proven that a farmer breaks the conditions for use of seed potatoes on farm repeatedly and intentionally, the European legislation foresees in"compensation for damages"on top of that of at least fourfold the regular license fee (so in total twelve times the regular fee for this type of on farm seed potatoes)."

"We now have therefore claimed ??substantial damages totaling more than EUR 450,000. Enforcement is necessary and even a moral duty, in order to do justice to the large group of those following the rules."

"Year after year we see an increase in the number of farmers who register their farm seed potatoes before the deadline of June 1. This year there was again an increase of over 30 % of the number of farmers compared to 2012. This suggests that there is increasing support among farmers to pay the license fee required for the on farm production of seed potatoes."

Mr Staring concludes with the warning that strong enforcement will be applied to those farmers who attempt to evade the mandatory seed potato registration in 2014.
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Breeders Trust S.A. is an organisation of seed potato breeding companies in Europe involved in the development of new potato varieties. Breeders Trust supports the implementation and enforcement of their Plant Breeders Rights protection and the prevention of the illegal trade in plant propagation material.
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