In August, the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) launched a new web database to help everyone in the seed sector easily access information about plant breeders’ rights protection for new crop varieties.
The database is a joint initiative of CSTA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Variety Registration Office (VRO) and the Plant Breeders Rights Office (PBRO). It will combine data from the Database of Varieties Registered in Canada (accessed from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website) and the PBRO in one location. The database will include information on agricultural varieties, versus horticultural or ornamental varieties.
Brought in by demand
The new database was developed this spring as a response to requests from seed sector stakeholders — seed growers, producers, grain handlers and retailers, seed treaters and cleaners — for easier access to variety registration and plant breeders’ rights information on crop varieties.
“It came together out of necessity,” says Anthony Parker, commissioner of the PBRO. “Those in the value chain wanted information about the status of varieties. CSTA offered to take a monthly data dump from the PBRO. They synthesized that information and created an easy tool for those interested in varieties that have variety registration and also those that have PBR protection.”
Previously, users had to separately search the PBRO and VRO websites for relevant information about varieties. Now, users will be able to search the new database by crop kind, variety name, and the type of PBR protection.
“All the information that we provide is publically available on both websites — the PBRO and the VRO — but CSTA has packed it into an easier format,” says Parker.
The landscape of the Canadian seed industry is changing under the Agricultural Growth Act, which became law on February 27. This Act included a significant update to Canada’s Plant Breeders Rights Act (PBRA). As part of the new PBRA, Canada subscribes to the newest convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, UPOV 91.
Since the Act became law, the number of new applications for agricultural crops has significantly increased, says Crosby Devitt, executive director of CSTA.
“Just prior to the introduction of the Bill, the PBRO received approximately 80 new agricultural varieties per year,” says Devitt. “This past year, as the legislation moved through the last stages of Parliament and came into force, the PBRO received applications for 148 new agriculture varieties. This trend is only expected to continue.”
Devitt says the new PBR legislation has brought opportunities for investment and new varieties for producers.
“However, with opportunity comes obligation,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that timely and important information is available to CSTA members, farmers, and everyone across the value chain.”
CSTA has been leading an outreach campaign to update stakeholders on the changes to Plant Breeders’ Rights in Canada. “We have been working with the Partners in Innovation, a group of 20 diverse farm organizations and value chain groups from across Canada, our members, and other partners to get the word out as widely as possible,” says Devitt.
Parker says Canada’s adoption of UPOV ’91 makes it especially key for stakeholders to have easy access to information about their rights and obligations. “Varieties that were granted protection until UPOV ’78 continue to live out that law until they have expired or been surrendered. Everything that was pending in the system will be under UPOV ’91.”
In the database, the type of PBR protection for each variety is indicated by the certification marks “UPOV 1978” or “UPOV 1991.” Devitt urges anyone interested in the system to visit the database at cdnseed.org.