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Organic Seeds in Canada: Solutions for Plant Breeders and Farmers?


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2019 AGM Breakout Session

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Organic Seeds in Canada: Solutions for Plant Breeders and Farmers?

  1. 1. Organic Seeds in Canada: Solutions for Plant Breeders and Farmers? Jennifer Scott, CSI Ann Slater, National Farmers Union Aabir Dey, Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security Moderator: Catriona Ffrench, Cookstown Greens
  2. 2. OCO AGM Plant Breeders’ Rights Proposed Changes Friday, April 12th, 2019 Jennifer Scott, CSI Organic Program Manager
  3. 3. What is PBR? “Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) are a form of intellectual property rights by which plant breeders can protect their new varieties in the same way an inventor protects a new invention with a patent.” rights/overview/guide/eng/1409074255127/14090742 55924#a1
  4. 4. Where does plant breeding take place in Canada? • AAFC (research stations across the country) • Universities (e.g. Crop Development Centre at USask, OAC at U of Guelph) • Private breeding institutions (e.g. Céréla) • Private companies with breeding facilities (e.g. Semences Prograin) Varietal breeding material may also be imported into Canada for development
  5. 5. Estimated Number of Plant Breeders Across Canada Institution Breeders Public Share Total Share AAFC 54 64% 25% U of A 2 2% 1% USask / CDC 10 12% 5% U of M 3 4% 1% U of Guelph 11 13% 5% McGill 1 1% 0% Alberta Ag & Forestry 3 4% 1% Total University 27 32% 12% Total Public 84 100% 38% Private 135 62% All Breeders 219 100% Source: CSTA for private sector breeders/scientists and consultants review of public sector and university materials and websites for public institutions.
  6. 6. Canada’s Seed System • Breeders work on developing a new variety (typically takes 8-12 years of research and field work) • Breeder decides whether to protect variety under PBR • Breeder makes application to Variety Registration Office if varieties of that crop kind require registration
  7. 7. How do varieties come to market? • New variety rights are purchased by a seed company or an individual (e.g. SeCan, FP Genetics, Canterra Seeds, C&M Seeds, etc.) • Seed is multiplied through successive pedigreed classes by seed growers who are members of CSGA • Each pedigreed seed field is inspected by a third- party crop inspector and issued a crop certificate by CSGA
  8. 8. Pedigreed Seed Cereals, pulses, soybeans (self-pollinated): Breeder seed Select seed Foundation Registered Certified seed Open-pollinated crops have 3 classes (e.g. corn, canola): Breeder Foundation Certified
  9. 9. • Foundation, Registered and Certified seed is cleaned, graded and labelled at registered seed establishments • All registered seed establishments and accredited seed testing laboratories in Canada are monitored by CSI • Pedigreed seed is labelled with CFIA tags
  10. 10. Pedigreed vs. Common or Farm-Saved Seed What can I do with Certified seed? 1. Plant it and harvest a grain crop 2. Plant it and harvest it as a seed crop for my own use 3. Plant it and harvest it as a seed crop for sale (see below) It is currently: • Illegal to sell common seed by variety name (since 1974) unless specifically allowed in certain crop kinds • Illegal to sell any PBR protected variety as common seed • Illegal to sell PBR protected varieties without paying royalties to variety owners
  11. 11. How the system works now for cereals Example: you buy AAC Brandon wheat in 2019, $1.27 per bushel will go back to SeCan and it will remit whatever dollar figure it agreed upon to the breeding institution (AAFC) Seed companies may invest money directly into breeding programs Crop commissions may direct check-off dollars towards breeding programs
  12. 12. Challenges in the current system • With only 20% Certified seed usage for wheat in W. Canada, only 20% of the acres of wheat produced pay into the wheat breeding programs • Government public breeding programs have been in decline for the past 20 years • AAFC has stated they would like to see their role in plant breeding shift to higher-level background research or “discovery science” and engage private industry earlier in the variety development process
  13. 13. What is being proposed? “Value creation” – consultations held this past winter around a possible system of royalty collection on varieties registered after February 2015 Goal would be to generate a revenue stream to infuse money into cereal, pulse and specialty crop breeding programs, which are heavily dependent on public breeding
  14. 14. How does this affect organic producers: • Existing varieties (registered prior to February 2015) will continue to be available without legislated royalty collection • Development of organic varieties will have the same challenges in the publicly-funded system that conventional breeding programs face • How would organic producers control return of check-offs or royalties to organic breeding programs?
  15. 15. How to get involved: • Government will continue the consultation process • Online survey planned by AAFC/CFIA • More regional consultation opportunities? • Check or for information
  16. 16. Alternatives to Variety Development for Organics OCO AGM & Policy Day April 2019
  17. 17. Participatory plant breeding for wheat, oats, and potatoes
  18. 18. CANOVI: Participatory variety trials and plant breeding program on
  19. 19. (Adapted from Morris and Bellon, 2004; Halewood et al, 2007) Steps in a Breeding Program Traditio nal Grass- roots Comple te Efficie nt PVS Conventi onal F R F R F R F R F R F R Breeding goals and Identifying parental lines ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Creat ing new germ plasm ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Trait selection and cultivar developmen t ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ Variety ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
  20. 20. ● $1.5M since 2013: ○ Dozens of advanced breeding lines eligible for registration for wheat, oats, and potatoes ○ Farmer-bred lines of wheat are performing better than conventionally-bred lines when tested in organic conditions ○ Improved capacity of farmers to participate and take ownership of variety development
  21. 21. How to support plant breeding while still upholding Farmers’ Rights? ● Breeding for the public good ○ Varieties that thrive in ecologically restorative farming practises ● EU and US leaders in this space ○ Canada has insufficient industry and public support ○ Farmers should not bear the full cost of variety development ● PPB is low-cost and high-impact ○ Does not preclude IPRs, but reduces the imperative
  22. 22. International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture ● Article 9: Farmers’ Rights ○ “...agrees not to limit any rights that farmers have to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material” ● Article 6.2: ○ ...strengthen research which enhances and conserves biological diversity...for the benefit of farmers who generate and use their own varieties and apply ecological principles in maintaining soil fertility and in combating diseases, weeds and pests ○ ...promoting...plant breeding efforts which, with the participation of farmers...strengthen the capacity to develop varieties particularly adapted to social, economic and ecological conditions
  23. 23. THANK YOU!
  24. 24. Organic Seeds in Canada: Solutions for Plant Breeders and Farmers? Ann Slater, National Farmers Union