Adoption of UPOV '91 Driving New Investment in Better Varieties; Opens Door for End Point Royalty Discussion

The Canadian government’s decision to implement UPOV ’91 standards for plant breeders’ rights is driving new investment in crop breeding, say seed industry officials.

Bill C-18 — the federal legislation amending the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act — became law last week. Representatives from the seed trade and the crop sector value chain celebrated its passage at a press conference with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at Canterra Seeds’ warehouse in Winnipeg on Friday.

“This provides a framework for additional investment in the cereals industry and the seed industry that’s unprecedented,” explains Canterra CEO David Hansen in the video below.

While Canterra is already partnering with France-based Limagrain on wheat breeding, there are other signs that new money is being invested in developing improved varieties to sell in Canada, says Hansen: “A lot of it is from seed developing companies that have interests in other parts of the world and now they see Canada as a viable option for those investment dollars.”

SeCan business manager Todd Hyra echoed Hansen comments in the following audio interview: “We’ve already seen more interest from overseas private plant breeding wanting to invest in Canada. The discussions have already started.”

Some farmers are concerned the changes will give private seed companies too much control over the seed supply — that public control over the germplasm for some of the varieties farmers grow will eventually be lost. Speaking specifically about wheat, Hansen says he still sees a role for both the private and public investment in breeding.

“The models are likely going to be a little different than what we’ve seen previously with other crops, be it canola, corn, soybeans or cotton,” he explains. “I see there being more partnering between the private sector and the public sector. Wheat is a very complex crop and it’s going to take a lot of energy and skills and talents from various sectors to make this all work.” (continued below)

Canterra’s David Hansen discussing the passage of Bill C-18, what UPOV ’91 means for seed growers and investment in crop breeding with RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner:

Growers need to make sure they’re onside with the new legislation, notes Hyra. That means making sure the seed you’re buying comes from a legal source: “Individuals that are buying seed from an illegal source could be liable for the compensation for the breeder of that seed…both the buyer and the seller are now responsible for ensuring the seed is legal.”

The changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act also open the door to the collection of end-point royalties, although Hyra says it will be “many years” before EPRs are put in place.

“It will take consultation from industry and farm groups to ensure that’s where they want to go. I think that’s many years in the future, but something that the industry will likely work towards,” he says. “We need farm groups on side with this in terms of how they want to fund research. Essentially it’s getting to a user-pay system and if users won’t pay, the research won’t happen.”

SeCan’s Todd Hyra discusses liability under UPOV ’91 and the timeline for when farmers might see an end-point royalty collection system put in place:

What do you think? Will farmers benefit from increased investment as a result of UPOV ’91? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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