Seed World

Streamlining Variety Registration | November 2013


Streamlining Variety Registration

Canada’s crop variety registration system is under review.

After several years of debate in the ag industry in general, and the seed sector in particular, over Canada’s crop variety registration system, the federal government is reviewing the system as part of its objective to streamline regulations and policies to facilitate innovation and enhance competitiveness.

In mid-August, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Grain Commission released Crop Variety Registration in Canada: Issues and Options, which highlights the current variety registration system and outlines possible approaches for modernizing and streamlining it.

The options range from allowing flexibility in the current, recently revised system to emerge, to eliminating the federal government’s role in the variety registration process completely.

Option 1: The status quo. The paper notes significant changes to the system were made in 2009 and “it could be argued that the current system has not yet been in place long enough to demonstrate all of its inherent flexibility.”

Option 2: Streamline the process by requiring all crops meet minimum registration requirements with the option for some crops to have merit assessment through an independent assessment process.

Option 3: Streamline the process by maintaining a minimum level of federal government oversight similar to the current Part III and eliminate the mandatory requirement some crop kinds have for merit assessment.

Option 4: Withdraw federal government oversight, allowing the industry or third parties to assume the role.

The options are meant to complement the review the crop variety recommending committees were asked to undertake earlier this year after Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz requested they consider streamlining their operating procedures.

Erin Armstrong is chair of the Prairie Grain Development Committee, which co-ordinates the recommending committees on wheat, rye and triticale, oats and barley, special crops, and oilseeds in Western Canada. The recommending committees are responsible for the evaluation of new varieties, and each committee will review the options paper and decide how it would like to proceed, says Armstrong.

“At this point the information has been distributed within the four recommending committees under the umbrella of the PGDC, and each recommending committee will determine what input it will provide. The responses may be different for the different crop types and their respective value chains,” she explains.

Armstrong says the impact on the recommending committees and the PGDC will depend on what the outcome of the process is. “In the short term, each recommending committee has undertaken a review of its operating procedures in response to the letter from Minister Ritz in February of 2013. It’s important to recognize that each recommending committee’s operating procedures are routinely reviewed and periodically modified in response to changing needs, which will continue as long as the recommending committees continue to operate.”

The discussion paper says now is a good time for a review because the government sees innovation, competitiveness and increased market access as key to the future of Canadian agriculture. “The role of the federal government is also changing,” the paper says. “Under Growing Forward 2, AAFC-led research, development and transfer activities will be increasingly focused on … (developing) germplasm … while providing programming to enable greater industry leadership to drive research priorities, including variety development and finishing.”

AAFC is accepting comments on the paper until Nov. 30. “It is still early days for the engagement process,” says AAFC spokesperson James Watson. “We recognize the next few months are busy ones for everyone involved in crop production — that’s why we’ve set Nov. 30 as our deadline for input on these four particular options or others that may come forward. We’re anticipating the bulk of the responses closer to the end of this deadline. We will review all of the results of the online engagement and other feedback we receive with a view to developing a refined policy proposal in 2014,” he says.

Julie McNabb


To provide feedback on these options, interested persons can complete the Crop Variety Registration in Canada Questionnaire on the Agriculture and Agri-Food website. The online form will be available until November 30, 2013.