Updating Plant Breeders’ Rights, Part V – Parliament has passed Bill C-18

March 20, 2015 | David G. Gerecke

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 and producers.

In our first post, we set out the context of development of seed varieties in Canada.

In our second post, we examined the current PBRA and the rights conferred on a breeder by obtaining registration.

In our 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.

In our 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 force.

As one can see, 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 made respecting:

  • 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 subject.

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 Bill).

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.


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