Ritz announces proposed changes to Plant Breeders Rights Act

Canada intends to sign onto an international convention to give increased variety protection to plant breeders, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told the Canadian Seed Trade Association’s semi-annual meeting in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Ritz said the government plans to sign on to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants convention (UPOV 91) by Aug. 1, 2014.

UPOV is an international standard which provides variety protection for plant breeders. It has undergone three revisions since 1961, and Canada’s present Plant Breeders’ Rights Act is based on the 1978 UPOV convention.

Signing on to the convention requires parliamentary amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights Act.

A Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website says amendments in UPOV 91 contain new elements which are intended to facilitate a breeder’s ability to enforce his/her rights on protected plant varieties.

This has raised some concern that the signing on to UPOV 91 would restrict farmers’ ability to save seed for replanting.

It is also seen as a prerequisite to the introduction of end-point royalties, under which royalties on varieties would be collected when the farmer sells grain.

Ritz told reporters that UPOV ’91 would attract more investment to plant breeding in Canada.

“At the end of the day we have to put it in place if we’re going to draw investment here in new seed varieties,” he said. “The biggest howl would be farmers can’t save seed. Well, they can’t save seed now if they sign a contract.

“It would be the same situation under UPOV ’91. There’s still the ability to save seed. If you sign a contract you have to honour the contract.”

— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man.

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