Canadian farmers may soon have increased access to plant
varieties as a result of proposed legislative changes. The
Agricultural Growth Act (the "Act") reached second
reading in Parliament on March 3, 2014, after being introduced
mid-December. The Act includes proposed amendments to the Feeds
Act, Fertilizers Act, Health of Animals Act, Seeds Act, Plant
Protection Act, Agricultural Marketing Programs Act, and Farm Debt
Mediation Act, with the aim of reducing red tape and encouraging
innovation, investment and trade.
Among other things, the Act would implement provisions ratifying
the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of
Plants convention ("UPOV 91"), bringing Canada's
plant seed protection regime in line with major trading partners,
such as Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the
United States. The UPOV 91 requirements provide greater protection
to plant breeders. The Government hopes this will encourage greater
innovation in Canada, as well as increase access to plant varieties
that are in global demand but were not previously made available in
Canada because they could not be adequately protected.
New seed varieties in Canada may benefit not only farmers, but
other members of the food supply chain, as plant varieties that
could not previously be sourced in Canada may become available
under the new Act. The ability to source agricultural inputs
locally has implications for sourcing and transportation costs, as
well as the use of "local", "product of Canada"
or similar claims on foods. According to the Consumer Council
of Canada's report of the Consumer Group Panel on Food Product
Information Labelling and Advertising, modern consumers are
demanding more information on food production and origin to support
ethical purchasing decisions, and the Panel has recommended that
place of origin labeling regulations should be strengthened under
the Government's current Food Labelling Modernization
initiative. While the full implications of the proposed changes and
the outcome of the Food Labelling Modernization initiative remain
to be seen, the Act has the potential to create new opportunities
in both the agriculture and food industries.
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