Seed World

Cross Pollination | Gemination | March 2014


UPOV 91: A Win-Win
“There’s no real negative impact on farmers,” said Anthony Parker, commissioner of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Plant Breeeders’ Rights office, speaking on the implementation of UPOV ‘91. Parker spoke via satellite from Ottawa to growers and industry officials gathered recently at the Lethbridge Research Centre. According to Parker, the plant-breeding standards will give breeders more exclusive rights, and will also add provisional protection to the varieties they develop. The duration of that protection for seed would also be expanded from 18 years to 20 years. Parker also said UPOV ‘91 would create a stronger intellectual-property environment for plant breeders, as he touted one particular benefit. “It will increase the level of investments into the Canadian breeding program. It will encourage foreign breeders to bring their varieties into Canada and protect them here,” he said. Parker added that the legislation required to make UPOV ‘91 the standard, to update Canada from the UPOV ‘78 framework, could come into force this August. “The timelines are pretty tight for this,” he said. “The benefits for breeders and farmers will be immediate.”

Protecting Pollinators
“Neonicotinoid pesticides help farmers protect their crops from insect attacks at the vulnerable seed and seedling stages,” says Pierre Petelle, vice-president of chemistry at CropLife Canada. “Coating the seed means less pesticide is used and beneficial insects like bees are less much less likely to come into contact with the insecticide.” CropLife Canada recently responded to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s request for public input on its Notice of Intent regarding bees and neonicotinoid pesticides. “We remain supportive of the efforts being undertaken to reduce unintended exposure of bees to neonicotinoids, but we are gravely concerned about the fact that the various other threats to bee health are being overlooked,” Petelle says. “Bee health is complex and there are several other factors can contribute to the kinds of unusual losses that a small number of beekeepers in very specific regions have experienced. Getting to the bottom of this situation is of paramount importance, but we have to look for solutions that are rooted in science if we expect them to have a meaningful impact.”

Supply and Demand
According to a recent International Grains Council five-year forecast, world total grains output is expected to decline slightly in 2014/15, from the record level forecast for the current season, but then to rise by an average of 1.6 per cent per acre over the remainder of the five-year period, exceeding two billion tons by 2016/17. “While some area expansion is anticipated, particularly in the major exporters such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and Brazil, the increase is largely driven by improving productivity. Firm demand growth is also expected and, while the absolute level of stocks is likely to rise, the ratio of stocks to use is projected to fall slightly to 18 per cent by the end of 2018/19, from 20 per cent forecast for 2013/14. The projections indicate a marked increase in trade volumes over the five years, as increased demand is met by production growth in the key exporters, most notably in South America and the Black Sea region,” says the report.

Onus on Growers to Negotiate the Best Deal
“We haven’t really set any guidelines for the fees. What we encourage seed growers to do is contact the licensed seed inspection services that are on the list, and create a contract with them … It’s up to seed growers to negotiate the best deal possible,” said Doug Miller, Canadian Seed Growers’ Association operations manager, at the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association annual meeting. Miller was commenting on the question of whether alternative service delivery would mean higher inspection service fees for growers than what they typically paid in the past when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency provided seed crop inspection services. “It is in your best interests to confirm with a licensed service provider not only their availability, but also their inspection fees. In some cases, you might find an inspection service is willing to negotiate their fee based on field locations, sizes, numbers, crop kind, etc. This is, however, totally between the seed grower and the authorized inspection service.”

Wheat Funding Needs Boost
“I don’t disagree that there’s been an emphasis on industry-driven or producer-driven partnerships, which gives us a five-year funding window … and it allows us to produce competitive varieties for the farming industry,” said Stephen Morgan Jones, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s science and technology branch director general for the Prairies, after a November speech to a grain industry symposium in Ottawa. “But we need to re-enter the debate about who does the basic cell work.”

Morgan Jones said the portion of research funding dedicated to “curiosity research” that has a 10- or 15-year timeline should be at least 20 to 30 per cent. “My estimate is now it would be in that 20 per cent area, so we are at the lower end.”

From Canada to California
“If Mother Nature affects one region of the world, it may actually benefit another at the same time because prices go up or down as a result of speculation,” says Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph.

“Thirty-eight million people [in California] will be looking for more food and this could be an opportunity for Canadian agriculture, particularly in light of the fact that our loonie has decreased in value over the greenback. Our Canadian products are actually cheaper to Americans than two years ago.” 2013 was the driest year on record in California, and forecasts project the arid weather will continue throughout this year. More than 500,000 acres of farmland may go unplanted in 2014, which Charlebois calls “quite significant.” Agriculture is worth an estimated $44.7 billion in California, a noticeable chunk of which comes from Canada.

Penalty Fees Avoidable
“We’re imposing a penalty of $25 per application if you do not have an email address or fax number on file at CSGA. That’s a penalty that’s obviously very avoidable by simply having that email address or fax number on file at CSGA. We will continue to collect CSGA fees and branch fees and any applicable CFIA fees if CFIA is doing the inspection, but … with a private service provider, we will not be collecting those fees, we may not even know what those fees are. That’s an arrangement between the seed grower and the service provider. Any unpaid fees to CSGA will continue to result in a crop certificate not being issued until your account with CSGA has been balanced. We have imposed other fees, or penalties that are, again, avoidable. These are established to try to work as a consensus to try and have alternative service delivery work as smooth as possible. As I said, they are avoidable, so meet the application deadline to avoid the penalty, have a complete application submitted … and keep your financial account at CSGA in good balance because we’re going to also start charging 1.5 per cent per month on the outstanding balance after 30 days.”

-– Dale Adolphe, Canadian Seed Growers’ Association executive director, speaking at the annual meeting of the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association about new penalty fees being imposed by CSGA as alternative service delivery for seed certification is implemented