The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Landmark Operations (trading as Seednet) for allegedly making false, misleading and deceptive claims in a fact sheet for its barley variety known as Compass.
At the time of the alleged conduct, Compass was a new barley variety that was developed by the University of Adelaide.
Seednet markets and distributes Compass to retailers and farmers across Australia under a licensing agreement with the University of Adelaide.
Commander is an older variety of barley commonly grown by farmers, developed by the University of Adelaide and also marketed and distributed under licence by Seednet.
The ACCC alleges that, from at least December 2014 to December 2016, Seednet misrepresented to farmers that Compass barley had strong straw; had better straw strength than Commander; had improved lodging resistance than Commander; and was better suited to early sowing, higher fertility paddocks and higher nitrogen rates than Commander.
By at least December 2014, Seednet had received information which made it (or ought to have made it) aware that Compass performance did not support these representations.
The ACCC also alleges that, from at least January 2016 to December 2016, Seednet misrepresented to farmers that Compass had higher resistance to a disease known as leaf rust than it actually did in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
By January 2016, Compass had been rated very susceptible to leaf rust in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, and ranging up to very susceptible in SA under consensus ratings through the National Variety Trials program.
‘‘We allege that Seednet knew, or ought to have known, that its representations in relation to Compass straw strength and leaf rust resistance were incorrect, but that it did not amend its fact sheet to correct these representations,’’ ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.