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PI-005: Chapter 1 - Background and Policy

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In the present version of this chapter, contact information, references to specific organizations within the CFIA, and references to other documents or policies may not be current. This information will be updated at the time of the next revision of this chapter. Please contact the CFIA for any questions or further information.

Table of Contents

1.1 Objective

This chapter is intended to give seed certification staff an understanding of the Canadian Seed Potato Certification Program. It introduces staff to programs related to seed potato certification such as Variety Registration and Plant Breeders' Rights, as well as legislation which staff may need to be aware of while carrying out their duties.

1.2 Definitions and Acronyms

1.2.1 Definitions

Class of seed potatoes established in section 47 of the Seeds Regulations Part II;
Any Breeders Selection Seed Potatoes, or a variety and class of seed potatoes, growing in an aseptic environment, a protected environment or in one or more fields of a farm unit;
Field generation:
In respect of the production of seed potatoes, means a year of growth in the field;
Laboratory tests:
Tests that are conducted in a laboratory that is accredited under the CFIA Laboratory Accreditation Program or equivalent;
Nuclear stock:
Class of seed potatoes (tuber, plantlet or vegetative propagule) that is produced under sterile or protected conditions and meets the requirements of the Seeds Regulations Part II. Nuclear stock originates from tissue culture material that has been subjected to laboratory tests and found free of disease;
Seed potato:
A tuber, or any part of a tuber, or nuclear stock that is certified according to the Seed Regulations Part II for seed reproduction purposes;
Tuber unit:
The separate pieces of one tuber that are planted consecutively in two or more hills in a row;
Seed potatoes that:
  1. are distinguished by common morphological, physiological, cytological, chemical or other common characteristics, and
  2. retain their distinguishing characteristics when reproduced;
Zero tolerance:
  1. In respect of a disease, the requirement of the absence of a disease in a plant, or in any part there of (including a tuber) and
  2. In respect of a varietal mixture, the requirement of the absence of the mixture of two or more varieties.

1.2.2 Acronyms

1.3 History of Seed Potato Certification in Canada

Canada has had a long standing tradition of excellence in seed potato certification which has been the envy of many countries worldwide. Originally, the need for a Seed Potato Certification Program began in 1914 when an embargo was placed on Canadian potatoes by the United States following the discovery of powdery scab, Spongospora subterranea in New Brunswick. A survey of potato diseases was conducted in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. With cooperation from the Research Stations of the Maritime Provinces and Quebec during the period 1914-1917, the best lots of Green Mountain and Irish Cobbler were identified to start Canada's certification programs. Finally, in 1918  an official certification program was started in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. By 1920, certification programs were in place in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec. Seed Potato Certification Programs were in effect in all provinces of Canada by 1924.

Every industry has its pioneers, people of vision and integrity whose names become almost legendary to those who follow after. For example, Dr. H.T. Gussow, Dominion Botanist for the Canada Department of Agriculture from 1909-1944, was responsible for establishing the excellent framework for seed potato certification in Canada. He recognized that people of high caliber were needed to establish the elevated standards required for Canada's seed potato industry to flourish. With unerring perception for discovering quality in people and seed stock, Dr. Gussow earned himself a special niche in the annals of seed potato certification in Canada.

The original certification program consisted of one class - Certified. The tolerances for this class were:

The founding principles of this initial program, including isolation, exclusion, treatment and regulation are still in place. In 1931 Bacterial Ring Rot (BRR) was discovered, creating stricter tolerances for certification; 1% blackleg, 1% mosaic, 1% leafroll, 1% BRR and 1% Foreign. In 1940, BRR was no longer tolerated in seed fields. In 1943, another era was started with the introduction of the three classes: Foundation, Foundation A and Certified. In 1955 Foundation A was abolished. In the 1960's technical and scientific progress on disease testing lead to the establishment of Elite Seed Classes by the Provincial Elite Seed Farms in cooperation with seed potato certification specialists.

In 1970, the Elite program was formally introduced with five classes: Elite I, II, III, Foundation and Certified. This program, designed as a flush-through system, was a major step in reducing the incidence of BRR and Potato Spindle Tuber Viroid (PSTVd). In 1980, zero tolerance for PSTVd was introduced in legislation. In the past few years no PSTVd has been detected in seed potato fields in Canada and it was officially eradicated in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in 1989. Official surveys are being conducted in other provinces with the objective being to declare eradication of PSTVd all across Canada. The certification program has further advanced to include BRR and PVYn laboratory testing. Nuclear Stock, screen house production, and Elite IV classes have been added to further serve the needs of industry. The Canadian Seed Potato Certification System is continuing to evolve, integrating technological advances in inspection and detection procedures as they become available.

1.4 General Outline of the Canadian Seed Potato Program

The objective of the Seed Potato Certification Program is to supply Canadian growers of seed, table stock and processing potatoes with certified seed which is of high varietal integrity and is relatively free of tuber borne diseases. The legal bases of the Seed Potato Certification Program are the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II.

Material entering the Seed Potato Certification program is produced through meristem (tissue) culture and is determined to be free of potato pathogens through laboratory tests. This Nuclear Stock material provides the initial inputs into a limited generation, flush through system. The basis of this system allows material to progress through the system for a fixed number of generations thereby building seedstocks while limiting exposure to pathogens over time.

There are eight classes of seed potatoes, of which seven require field inspection. The class assigned to a crop or lot depends on the number of generations it has been grown in the field, the disease level and the varietal purity. Seed planted in the field drops one class every generation. In cases where disease levels found during field inspection do not meet that class, then that field is given the class status equivalent to the disease rating in the field.

Due to their high ranking in the classification system and the minimal opportunity for BRR infection, Pre-Elite and Elite I class seed are exempt from BRR testing. If Pre-Elite and and/or Elite I are the only classes being grown on a farm unit a minimum of two lots must be tested for BRR.

There is a zero tolerance for BRR and PSTVd for all classes of seed potatoes.

Table: 1.1 Flow Through Model of Field Generations and Class Status in the Canadian Seed Potato Certification Program
Table Summary

The following table is a Flow Through model of field generations and class status in the Canadian Seed Potato Certification Program, through outlining the field generation, the class, and the highlights of each.

Field Generation Class Highlights
0 Nuclear Grown in a protected environment
1 Pre-Elite 0% total virus, 0% varietal mixture on final inspection
2 Elite I 0% total virus, 0% varietal mixture on final inspection
3 Elite II 0.1% total virus, 0% varietal mixture on final inspection
4 Elite III 0.2% total virus, 0.05% varietal mixture on final inspection
5 Elite IV 0.3% total virus, 0.1% varietal mixture on final inspection
6 Foundation 0.5% total virus, 0.2% varietal mixture on final inspection
7 Certified Not eligible for planting on a seed farm

Activities under the Seeds Regulations Part II which are used to accomplish the objectives of the Canadian Seed Potato Certification Program include Field Inspections, Harvest/Bin Inspections and Tuber Inspections. These activities will be discussed in separate chapters in this manual.

Internationally recognized, this system of inspection allows Canadian Seed Potato Producers to market certified seed potatoes worldwide. Whether sold domestically or for export, Canadian seed potatoes have an excellent reputation for purity and disease freedom.

1.5 Variety Registration System

The variety registration system has been in place in Canada since 1923. The overriding principle for registering varieties is merit. For potatoes, the authority for the registration system comes under the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part III.

The variety registration system has three mandates:

1.5.1 Types of Variety Registration

As a result of amendments to the Seeds Regulations Part III in April 1997, the number of crops subject to registration have been reduced from 50 to 30. There are several types of registration:

Varieties must be tested under the auspices of and supported by a recognized recommending committee in order to be considered for registration.

Recommending committees are responsible for:

1.5.2 Fees for Variety Registration Activities

Table: 1.2  Fees for Variety Registration Activities

The Procedures for the Registration of Crop Varieties in Canada, the Variety Registration Application Form and List of Varieties Registered in Canada are available on the Variety Registration section of the website.

1.6 Plant Breeders' Rights

The Plant Breeders' Rights Act came into force on August 1, 1990. The legislation makes it possible for plant breeders to legally protect new varieties of plants. Plant varieties, both sexually and asexually reproduced, may be covered under the legislation for a period of up to 18 years. The intent of the legislation is to stimulate plant breeding in Canada, to provide Canadian producers better access to foreign varieties and to facilitate the protection of Canadian varieties in other countries.

The owner of a new variety who receives a "grant of rights" has exclusive rights over the use of the variety, and is able to protect their new variety from exploitation by others. The holder of the plant breeders' right has the exclusive right to produce and sell propagating material of the protected variety. The holder may also licence another party to produce and sell propagating material of the variety. There are two restrictions to the holder's rights:

As with other intellectual property legislation (e.g. patents), the holder of the rights is responsible for taking enforcement action against any possible infringements.

1.6.1 Eligibility of Varieties for Plant Breeders' Rights

For varieties to be protected they must demonstrate that they are:

New: The sale of a candidate variety prior to application for protection is restricted. Varieties may not have been sold in Canada prior to submitting an application for Plant Breeders' Rights. For potato varieties, sales outside of Canada are permitted for up to four years prior to the date of filing the application in Canada.

Distinct: A candidate plant variety must be measurably different from all other varieties which are known to exist within common knowledge at the time the application was made. Common knowledge includes varieties already being cultivated or exploited for commercial purposes in Canada and those varieties described in a publication that is available to the public.

Uniform: A candidate plant variety must be uniform in that any variation should be predictable to the extent that it can be described by the breeder. Variations in the uniformity must be commercially acceptable. Variation as shown by the presence of off-types due to mixtures, variants, mutation or other causes must meet tolerance levels which are determined by the reproductive system of the variety. Vegetatively propagated and self-pollinated varieties are not expected to exhibit the wide variations within the variety that are characteristic of cross-pollinated varieties.

Stable: A candidate variety must remain true to its description over successive generations. The variety must be stable in its essential characteristics so that further generations of seed or other propagating material exhibit the same characteristics as described in the original description for which rights were granted.

1.6.2 Fees for Plant Breeders' Rights

Table: 1.3 Fees for Plant Breeders' Rights:

The Guide to Plant Breeders' Rights and the PBR Application Form are available on the Plant Breeders' Rights section of the website

1.7 Provincial Legislation

The Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II are the legal bases of the Seed Potato Certification Program in Canada. Its implementation and improvement are done through extensive consultation with all groups involved in the program: growers, provincial departments, the CFIA and Research Branch of Agriculture Canada.

According to the Canadian Constitution, the provinces have the authority to proclaim and implement laws and regulations that complete and/or reinforce federal laws and regulations.

In that respect, certain provinces did proclaim legislation to support seed potato production of high phytosanitary quality (see Table 1.4). Such legislation will not be studied in this manual and is not the responsibility of the CFIA. For more information contact your provincial representative.

Table 1.4:  Provinces Having Provincial Legislation
Table summary

The following table outlines the different provinces of Canada and their different legislation.

Province Legislation
Alberta Agricultural Pest Act, Chpt-8.1, 1984; Bacterial Ring Rot Control Regulation
British Columbia Seed Potato Act, 1979
Manitoba Plant Pests and Diseases Act, 1963
New Brunswick Potato Disease Eradication Act, 1979
Newfoundland Plant Protection Act, Chpt. 49, 1978; Newfoundland Seed Potato Regulations, 1980
Nova Scotia Potato Industry Act, 1967
Ontario Plant Diseases Act, 1965
Prince Edward Island Plant Disease Eradication Act, 1974
Quebec Loi sur la prévention des maladies de la pomme de terre, Loi 71, 1984
Saskatchewan Pest Control Act, 1978; The Bacterial Ring Rot Control Regulations, 1994
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