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Canada Poised to Adopt UPOV’91 Standards for Plant Breeders’ Rights (PCN Summer 2014) JUL 9 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

Legislation that increases protection for plant breeders’ rights is currently before the House of Commons and, if passed, it could come into force as early as this fall.

“There is strong support in the farming community, from Partners in Innovation, for example,” said Commissioner Anthony Parker of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “This is very important to stimulate investment on plant breeding and have access to international varieties.”

Parker said that all of Canada’s major trading partners now conform to the latest agreement of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV’91). As Pulse Crop News went to press, Parker said that Bill C-18, which proposes UPOV’91 amendments to Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) Act, had received second reading and a motion was passed limiting additional debate to five hours before voting.

“The major components of the Act are facilitating PBR protection in Canada and making the administrative process easier,” he said. “It also provides stronger protection against infringement. It really does encourage increased investment for companies. They know it’s a predictable framework to invest, and they know that they will have a return on their investment.”

Parker added that some companies have already released new seed varieties into Canada because the federal government is set to pass the UPOV’91 amendments. The proposed amendments contain new elements intended to facilitate a breeder’s ability to enforce their rights on protected plant varieties.

The CFIA website states that the amendments to have Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Act conform to the 1991 UPOV Convention would not change what farmers are allowed to do with respect to protected plant varieties.

Parker said that Canada’s adoption of UPOV’91 will benefit producers who legitimately obtain seed of a protected variety and their liability will not increase. This means that if a farmer purchases seed of a protected variety from someone authorized by the breeder to sell it, the breeder will not be able to exercise his/her rights on the grain. UPOV’91 does provide breeders with the opportunity to exercise their rights on the grain only if there was no reasonable opportunity to exercise their rights on the initial seed, such as “brown bag” sales.

A farmer is restricted from buying or selling either pedigreed or common seed, or any other type of propagating material of a protected variety, without the authorization of the breeder under Canada’s current Plant Breeders’ Rights Act.

Alberta Pulse Growers contributes member check-off dollars to the Grain Growers of Canada, which represents APG producers as a member of Partners in Innovation. Partners in Innovation was founded by a group of leading Canadian farmer and agricultural organizations that joined forces to support Canadian government legislation intended to improve plant breeders’ rights.

“Canadian farmers need access to new seed varieties in order to remain competitive and to feed a hungry world,” President Gary Stanford of the Grain Growers of Canada said in a Partners in Innovation press release. “Close to 90 per cent of innovation investment is currently in just three crops which have some intellectual property protection. This legislation is needed to protect plant breeders’ work on seed traits and it will encourage more research in cereals and in plant breeding in general.”

The CFIA website states that Canada has been a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants since 1991. The Union is commonly known by its French acronym “UPOV.” Its mission is to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection that will encourage plant breeders to develop new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society as a whole.

With its formation in 1961, UPOV established the very first Convention. Since that time, there have been three revisions in 1972, 1978 and 1991. Canada’s present Plant Breeders’ Rights Act is based on the 1978 UPOV Convention. UPOV’91 contains some new elements that provide stronger protection for plant breeders than any of the previous conventions.

An effective plant breeders’ rights system is intended to foster an environment that encourages and supports the development of new plant varieties. Parker said that amending the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act could encourage an increased investment in plant breeding, potentially giving Canadian farmers more access to new and innovative plant varieties that allows them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

A decade ago, the CFIA conducted a public, web-based consultation to determine stakeholders’ opinions regarding potential changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act to conform to UPOV’91. The CFIA reports that it heard from plant breeders, farmers, horticulturalists, seed dealers and other interested citizens. The feedback confirmed that Canadian stakeholders generally support the proposed changes.

For more information about UPOV’91, please visit or