As reported by North Dakota State University and Seedquest, the North Dakota State Seed Commissioner, Ken Bertsch, cautioned individuals to avoid seed law violations in the purchase and planting of protected varieties.
The prevalence of new technologies in the industry has led to more variety protection therefore, knowledge and adherence to seed laws becomes imperative for growers, seed conditioners and producers who maintain stocks of protected varieties of all types. Varieties protected by Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Title V can be sold only as a class of certified seed as will be designated by the individual states. Even those protected varieties outside PVP Title V purview, can only be sole with approval from the variety owner in the form of a license or some other IP rights granting agreement.
"In general terms, unless the seed being purchased is accompanied by a certified, registered or foundation class label or comes from a reputable dealer with authorization from the owner to market the seed, you shouldn't purchase and plant the seed," Bertsch says. "Brown-bagged seed isn't worth the risk and everyone involved in the transaction is a part of that risk pool."
As stated Bertsch cautioned to obtain seed through legal channels as it ensures all the proper rights are granted and applicable laws are applied. Brown-bagging or illegal transactions typically farmer-to-farmer does not have the ability to make these guarantees and can lead to fines levied by federal and state agencies from anywhere between $250 to $5000.
However, the kicker is the fact that the violation could potentially be used in civil infringement suit by the rights-holder of the illegal use of the protected variety. The damage award can be up to treble damages of the seed sold and grain derived from the planting. Seed Quest states that the violations of PVP and labeling laws have resulted in fines and fees upward of $50,000.
Bottom line – Learn the seed laws applicable to your enterprise, federal and state, and follow them as the initial fine may not be seem steep, but can quickly turn into much more. If you are found to be in violation of a seed law, please consult with counsel, preferably those familiar with the industry and agencies involved, in order to weigh out the options as there may be potential settlements with government agencies without an admission of guilt or some other more amicable alternative.