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How does Bill C-18 impact farmers?

On Monday, December 9th, CANTERRA SEEDS was privileged to host Federal Agriculture Minister, Mr. Gerry Ritz, as he announced plans for the Agriculture Growth Act, Bill C-18. The Act includes many updates to regulations that will streamline the industry, including reforms to Plant Breeders Rights. This will finally bring UPOV ’91 into place in Canada.

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Because we hosted the announcement, I have been asked a lot of questions from a lot of people over the last week. So today, I decided to take a few moments to answer some of the questions I have been most frequently asked:

1. How did you feel about hosting the announcement?

This is a huge announcement for the seed industry, our shareholders and our customers, and CANTERRA SEEDS was honoured to be chosen as the host. Our company works very hard to be at the forefront of industry change, and having our Minister here reflects that. We look forward to continuing to lead the charge as changes are made that benefit our industry as a whole.

2. Why is this announcement a big deal, and what does it really mean?

At its core, the changes outlined in the announcement will foster innovation, growth and investment in our country. Creating an attractive investment climate for plant breeders by bringing Canada in step with the rest of the world on plant breeders’ rights, will provide new cereal and pulse varieties for Canadian farmers.

3. Some groups say UPOV ’91 means the end of farm-saved seed. Is that true?

No, this is totally false. There is a lot of misinformation out there about UPOV ’91,

but in fact, it clearly outlines what is called the ‘farmers’ exemption’, which gives farmers the legal right to save and use the seeds they grow. They will not be allowed to sell or trade seed protected by plant breeders’ rights, but that is the same in our current system.

4. There is lots of talk about end point royalties, do you think they will be implemented here?

Bill C-18 will allow breeders to be compensated for their intellectual property, and this could mean the use of end point royalties. However, there is still a lot of discussion and work to be done to determine the best system going forward. We often talk about UPOV ’91 as being new, but in fact it has been in place for decades in other parts of the world. We have the benefit of looking to other countries and cherry-picking the best parts of their systems to develop the best approach for Canada.

5. The end point royalty system in Australia has all but eliminated Certified seed in that country. Will that happen here in Canada?

The Pedigreed seed industry is integral to agriculture in Canada, and we must work to maintain it. A round-table working group that includes farmers, the grain industry, government and the seed industry, has been drafting recommendations for a new system for many months. While we still have a long way to go, the plan drafted to date includes measures to make sure Certified seed maintains its value.

6. What changes will be made to variety registration?

Bill C-18 doesn’t outline any changes to variety registration. Proposed changes are part of a consultation process that is separate from this act.

7. What has been the international response to Bill C-18?

I had the benefit of attending the ASTA (American Seed Trade Association) meetings in Chicago immediately following the Minister’s announcement. Response from seed companies from around the world about the ratification of UPOV ’91 is outstandingly positive and overwhelmingly encouraging. Where some of these breeders had been hesitant to invest in Canada previously, they now see that our country is welcoming them with open arms.

If you have any other questions about the announcement from last week, UPOV ’91, or how this could affect Canadian agriculture please post them below. I’ll check back to make sure everything has been covered.

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