As readers of this blog may recall, the federal government
tabled Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, in
late 2013. The Bill was to amend some eight agricultural
statutes, including the Plant Breeders' Rights Act.
The government's intent has been to create stronger
intellectual property rights for plant breeders to, in turn, create
greater access for farmers to new crop varieties and plant
technologies. Opposition groups have raised concerns about
the Bill and the restrictions on the right of farmers to save and
re-use seed from prior crops without paying compensation, but they
seem to have been in the minority.
Over the past year, we have followed the progress of the Bill
and analyzed the amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights
contemplated by it, focusing on the impact on plant breeders'
rights, and how the proposed changes could affect plant breeders
first post, we set out the context of development of seed
varieties in Canada.
second post, we examined the current PBRA and the rights
conferred on a breeder by obtaining registration.
third post, we began a detailed examination of Bill C-18
and the way it would alter the scope of rights afforded to the
owner of a registered variety.
fourth post, we discussed the "farmer's
privilege" and the impact of the amendments on the right of
farmers to save and re-use seed.
In late February 2015, the Bill took major steps towards
becoming law. It was passed by the Senate without amendment
on February 24, 2015 and received Royal Assent on February 25,
2015. All that remains is for it to be proclaimed into
As one can see here, the main portions of the Bill that amend
the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, sections 2 to 51, will come
into force on a day to be fixed by the Governor in Council.
The amendments will not take effect until then. The
government will likely be working on developing regulations to
accompany the amendments, and the relevant sections likely would
not be proclaimed until those are ready. The regulations may
be significant – the Bill provides that regulations may be
the classes of farmers or plant varieties to which farmer's
privilege would not apply; and
the use of harvested material with respect to farmer's
privilege, including any circumstances in which that use is
restricted or prohibited and any conditions to which that use is
As such, any regulations that are introduced would likely have
the effect of further restricting the rights of farmers to save
seed. However, it is possible that no additional restrictions
would be introduced, at least initially (see our
fourth post for some discussion of the guidance offered by UPOV
91, the international convention that is effectively adopted by the
We will continue to track the status of Bill C-18 and will
report when we learn that the amendments to the Plant Breeders'
Rights Act have come into force.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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