Crop Variety Registration in Canada
- Canada's Crop Variety Registration (VR) is a regulatory requirement of the Seeds Act which governs the regulation of seed in Canada and is administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
- VR is the foundation of Canada's grain quality assurance system, ensuring that information is available to the regulator to prevent marketplace deception, facilitating seed certification and the international trade of seed, enabling tracking and traceability of varieties in the marketplace.
- The system supports the development of new crop varieties for Canada, with improved agronomic performance and to end use value for the benefit of producers, processors, food manufacturers, both domestic and international.
- 53 crop kinds, including most major field crops grown in Canada are subject to VR. Some examples are cereals (for example, wheat), canola, oilseed soybean, pulses and forages. The exceptions include corn, food-grade soybeans, chickpeas, all fruits and vegetables, all ornamental plants and turf grasses.
- Depending on the breeder, the crop type, the breeding methodology employed, and the complexity of the selection process, the variety development process from the initial plant breeding to the marketing of seed to a farmer can take 5 to 12 years. VR is the final administrative step in this process and CFIA's Variety Registration Office has a performance standard of processing a registration in 8 weeks or less.
Modernizing Canada's Variety Registration System
In 2013/2014 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) engaged with stakeholders and consulted the general public via an online survey to initiate a complete national review of the Variety Registration system in Canada and its effects on the development and adoption of new crop varieties.
AAFC, the CFIA and the Canadian Grain Commission also collaborated on an Issues and Options paper that described the current crop Variety Registration system in Canada and outlined some potential options for modernizing and streamlining the system. Representatives of Canada's seed and crop production sector (plant breeders, producers, processors, the seed sector, etc.) for crop kinds which are currently subject to registration and also for those crop kinds not currently subject to variety registration, were invited to review the Issues and Options paper and complete a public online survey hosted by AAFC.
Some 140 responses were received, with the majority coming from primary producers, seed companies, farm organizations, industry associations, crop marketers/handlers, and exporters. These respondents represented a number of crop value chains, including canola, wheat, rye, triticale, pulses, barley, oats, soybeans, tobacco and forages. Some respondents represented multiple crop value chains. Responses were received from across Canada, but the majority were from the Prairie provinces and Ontario. Overall, 87% of the respondents were in support of the government being in charge of Variety Registration.
Respondents were asked to indicate their preference among the four options presented in the paper:
- Option 1 – Allow the flexibility inherent in the current VR system to emerge
- 37% of respondents supported
Overall, 57% of respondents supported varying options for reform, as follows:
- Option 2 – Streamline regulatory process by requiring that all crops meet minimum registration requirement with the option for some crops to have merit assessment through an independent assessment process
- 27% of respondents supported
- Option 3 – Streamline regulatory process by maintaining a minimum level of federal government oversight (similar to the current Part III), and eliminate any merit assessment or performance data under the VR system
- 17% of respondents supported
- Option 4 – Withdrawal of federal government oversight role in VR, allowing industry or third parties to assume these functions
- 13% of respondents supported
In addition to indicating their preferred option, respondents were given the chance to provide more detailed input on a number of related issues, such as:
- the advantages and disadvantages of the current VR system;
- why Canada's current approach to variety registration should or should not change; and
- the appropriate roles for the federal government and the private sector in a modernized VR system.
A selection of individual responses to these and other questions can be found in the full summary report. To request an electronic copy of the full report, please contact:
Departmental Publications Service
- Crop Variety Registration in Canada: Issues and Options (2013)
- Database of Varieties Registered in Canada
- Variety Registration Cancellations
- Procedures for the Registration of Crop Varieties in Canada
- Recommending Committees – Contact Information
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