Seed World

Canada’s PBR Advisory Committee is Hitting the Ground Running in 2023

With a new chairperson at the helm, Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Right Advisory Committee continues to do important work to protect plant breeders at home and beyond.

Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Advisory Committee has a new chairperson and a packed agenda for 2023. Deb Hart was appointed chair of the committee — which provides valuable guidance to officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regarding intellectual property protection in Canada and beyond — in late 2022.

Hart spent almost two decades helping and advocating for the Alberta and Canadian seed potato industries as seed coordinator for Potato Growers of Alberta. She has served as an advisory committee member for many years representing the Canadian Potato Council.It was her experienced working in Wild Rose Country that led her to gain an appreciation of Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) in Canada, especially in the realm of seed potato.

“Once I started working in Alberta, where the seed industry is larger, I saw how much seed is exported to the U.S. They’re using a lot of non-Canadian varieties, and it’s important to these American companies to remain active in Canada,” says Hart, who got her first taste of the potato industry in 2001 when she became the general manager of the Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association.She had previously worked in the seed industry with positions at SeCan, Limagrain and Monsanto.

When Hart made the switch to the potato industry, she thought her experience working with CFIA and the government through the seed industry would transfer over — which it did.

She quickly fell for the seed potato industry specifically — the passion of the growers inspired her. Over the almost two decades Hart spent working in the potato industry, she became an integral part of the industry both provincially and nationally. Now, as chair for the PBR Advisory Committee, she’ll bring that expertise to bear in guiding the approach taken by Canada’s PBR officials in strengthening the country’s IP framework.

“Canada has so much potential to produce top-quality world-renowned crops, but we need a strong IP framework to move forward. We’ll be working on trying to ensure that farmers, breeders and seed companies have that protection that they need,” Hart says.

Hart’s accomplishments within the industry are numerous and too many to name. She was a founding member of the On-Farm Food Safety Committee (now known as CanadaGAP), with the Canadian Horticultural Council. She was part of the working group who created a biosecurity program for the potato industry with CFIA. She was also appointed by the federal agriculture minister’s office to the PBR Advisory Committee.

“People like Deb make our advisory committee hugely valuable to the agriculture industry in Canada,” says Anthony Parker, Canada’s PBR commissioner and vice- president of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants council.


“At a time when a lot of committees struggle to find members, we were happy last year to have the opposite problem. We had over 60 applications for membership, all of them high quality people. It’s become a type of committee people want to sit in on, because they know their advice will be valued and lead to real change.”

The committee is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders working in the grain sector, horticulture, life science, plant breeding, seed processing, the regulatory sphere and beyond. The committee was originally formed by the federal government in the early 1990s. However, in 2015 a new committee was appointed to help guide officials in implementing UPOV ’91.

Of course, it was after Canada ratified UPOV ’91 that the hard work began to raise Canada’s global stature in the IP sphere, Parker notes.When Kofi Agblor sat on the advisory committee beginning in 2015, he and other committee members were tasked with helping implement the act and begin to use it to make Canada a greater player on the world IP stage.

At the time, Agblor was managing director of the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. He’s currently program director for the Field Crop Development Centre at Olds College in Alberta. He says increasing deregulation in the crop science arena means competition is becoming fiercer, and Canada has to continue to position itself as a place worth investing in and bringing new technology to — something the advisory committee’s members are keenly attuned to.

“Many entities are breeding crops for the sole purpose of bringing them into Canada, when able to. Depending on the crop kind, Canada may be the most favourable environment for those products, and we need to ensure Canada is able to accept those innovations and provide them to producers,” Agblor says.

“We are going to be seeing a lot more of that from the ornamental, fruit and vegetables and field crops segments. The challenge will be continuing to have that operating environment that allows for the introduction of those varieties into the country, which makes for a more competitive environment because the domestic developers have to be at the top of their game,” Agblor says.

That increased competition also means Canada must create an environment that incentivizes those developers to come into Canada, because the lead beneficiary is actually the Canadian entrepreneur, the farmer, input suppliers and the entire value chain, Agblor adds.

“That’s where the PBR Advisory Committee comes into play; it’s made up of people who work in the industry and know what government needs to do to enable that innovation.”