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Canada's current seed regulatory framework - seed regulatory modernization

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1.0 Introduction

As part of the Government of Canada's 2018 regulatory reform agenda, the Seeds Regulations are being examined with a view to proposing potential avenues for modernization and improvement. These proposed amendments would apply to seeds and seed potatoes that are sold, imported or exported. The proposed amendments would reduce overlap and redundancy and increase responsiveness to industry changes.

This summary is based on 3 separate reports prepared by Synthesis Agri-Food Network to support the Seed Regulations modernization process:

The main purposes of seed and seed potatoes laws, standards, and policies in place today are to ensure the overall quality and reliability of seed and seed potatoes for producers and to protect from misinterpretation by strengthening the existing requirements. This is accomplished by the following:

The Seed Potato Certification Programs in North America were created around 1913-1915, when Canada (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and a few US States established official programs. Such programs were in effect in all provinces of Canada by 1924. In the early days of certification in North America, inspectors were confronted with problems of varietal mixtures, varietal synonyms, and degeneration of seed stocks Compendium of Potato Diseases, 1981.

Some acronyms to know are:

2.0 Current regulatory framework

Canada's seed regulatory framework works toward harmonization with other international frameworks. These foundational regulatory frameworks are:

The current regulatory framework for seed and seed potatoes consists of the Seeds Act, Seeds Regulations, Weed Seeds Order and other policies and standards existing outside of the Seeds Regulations in Canada.

PDF (624 kb)

Figure 1 Seed act to policy flowchart. Description follows.
Description for Figure 1 - Seed act to policy flowchart

Seeds Act: foundation for the seed regulatory framework in Canada, 10 pages. Last updated: 2015. Process to change: policy proposal followed by the Cabinet consideration, Parliament and Senate readings, Royal Assent by Governor General; typical takes 3-5 years. There are arrows that flow to the Seeds Regulations and Weed Seed Order boxes.

Seeds Regulations: the next level of detail, includes 5 major sections, 140 pages. Key aspects include: seed standards, variety registration, variety naming, crop kinds subject to variety registration, registration of establishments, plants with novel traits, seed grade tables and unique regulations for seed potatoes. Last updated: 2015. Process to change: policy development, consultations, regulatory impact analysis, Canada Gazette, Part I publication, review and revise, approval for Canada Gazette, Part II, Royal Assent by Governor General; typically takes 18 month to 3 years. There is an arrow that flows to policies and standards (outside of regulations).

Weed Seeds Order: sets out the list of weeds in classes (such as Prohibited Noxious Weed Seeds). 11 pages. Last updated in 2016. Process to change is similar to the Seeds Regulations.

Policies and standards (outside of regulations): various standards, policies, rules and other requirements that are not in the Regulations, for example: Circular 6 policies establish seed crop standards, set by the Canadian Seed Growers' Association.

  • Procedures for registration of crop varieties
  • Quality systems procedures
  • Quality managements systems for registered seed establishments
  • Plant protection policy directives
  • Seed potato inspection procedures
  • Seed Potato Tuber Quality Management Program
  • Process to change: technical review or consultation with government and industry subject matter experts. Policies and standards outside of the regulations are approved within the CFIA's governance system (with the exception of Circular 6)

There are several other acts and regulations that also impact and need to work in sync with this basic seed regulatory framework such as the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, the Plant Protection Act, the Canada Grain Act and the Feeds Act.

2.1 Regulatory connections along the seed life cycle

The Seed Program extensively utilizes Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) for the delivery of many aspects of the program. Private persons are authorized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to carry out many activities associated with import, export, domestic production and processing, seed testing, and seed crop inspection. Further, key partners aid in the delivery of services, namely the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA) which administers the standards for pedigreed seed crop production and the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI) a conformity verification body for authorized persons.

The seed life cycle regulatory connections - PDF (544 kb) are built on the following international frameworks: AASCO, AOSA, AOSCA, IPPC, ISTA, NAPPO and OECD. The current regulations, standards and policies along with the players involved are listed below for each stage in the seed life cycle regulatory connections.

Stage 1: New seed variety developed

Stage 2: Variety registration

Stage 3: Seed certification-breeder seed is multiplied and recognized

Stage 4: Seed crop certification-crop inspection and crop certificate

Stage 5: Seed is harvested, cleaned and conditioned

Stage 6: Seed is sampled, tested and graded

Stage 7: Seed is certified and labelled

Stage 8: Seed is sold to farmers, exported or imported

2.2 Regulatory connections along the seed potato life cycle

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 basis behind the Seed Potato Certification Program are the Seeds Act and the Seeds Regulations Part II. The Canadian Seed Potato Certification program is a national program administered by the CFIA. Material entering the Seed Potato Certification program is produced through disease free meristem (tissue) culture and is determined to be free of potato pathogens through the use of laboratory testing. This Nuclear Stock material provides the initial inputs into a limited generation, flush through certification system. The basis behind this system is to allow material to progress through the system for a fixed number of generations thereby building seed stocks while limiting exposure to pathogens over time. There are 8 classes of seed potatoes, of which 7 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 1 class every generation/year that it is grown in the field.

The Seed Potato Tuber Quality Management Program (SPTQMP) is a voluntary program under which licensed seed potato growers conduct shipping-point tuber inspections for domestic shipments of seed potatoes. The CFIA conducts audits of farm units associated with licensed growers.

The seed potato life process and regulatory connections - PDF (540 kb) are built on the following international frameworks: IPPC, NAPPO and UNECE. The current regulations, standards and policies along with the players involved are listed below for each stage of the seed potato life process and regulatory connections.

Stage 1: New seed potato variety is developed or imported

Stage 2: Variety registration

Stage 3: Seed potato multiplication

Stage 4: Seed potatoes are harvested and stored

Stage 5: Seed potatoes are sampled and tested

Stage 6: Seed potatoes are graded, certified and labelled

Stage 7: Seed potatoes are sold to farmers and/or exported

3.0 Seed Industry by numbers

This section provides a general overview of the seed potato and seed industry in Canada. The following illustrates the various stages of the seed sector in Canada and the economic contribution.

PDF (492 kb)

Figure 2 - Seed industry by numbers - Seed supply chain. Description follows.
Description for Figure 2 - Seed industry by numbers - Seed supply chain

The following is a breakdown of the economic contributions at the different stages during the seed supply chain stages:

  • Plant breeding
    • Plant breeding and trait development
    • Private seed companies
    • University research programs
    • AAFC research programs
    • Provincial government investments
    • Producer investments
    • $0.10 B private investment plus $0.08 B public and producer investment equal line total $0.18 B investment
    • 80 plant breeders

There is an arrow that flows into the next stage seed growing. There is a plus symbol between the dollar value of this stage and the dollar value in seed growing.

  • Seed growing
    • Multiplication of pedigreed seed,
    • Breeder, select, foundation, registered and certified classes
    • $0.6 B (not include common seed)
    • 3,224-pedidgree seed growers
    • 1,600 forage seed growers
    • 453 seed potato growers
    • 1.3 million pedigreed seed acres with more than 52 different crop kinds produced
    • 250 licensed seed crop inspectors(LSCI) for pedigreed seed
    • 26 authorized seed crop inspection services (ASCIS)

There is an arrow that flows into the next stage seed conditioning. There is a plus symbol between the dollar value of this stage and the dollar value in seed conditioning.

  • Seed conditioning
    • Cleaning
    • Grading
    • Testing
    • Labelling
    • $0.5 B in cost (not including Common or farm saved seed cleaning)
    • 570 approved conditioners
    • 894 bulk storage facilities
    • 56 accredited seed analysts
    • 29 accredited seed testing labs
    • 1,073 accredited graders
    • 1,771 operators

There is an arrow that flows into the next stage seed distribution. There is a plus symbol between the dollar value of this step and the dollar value in seed distribution.

  • Seed distribution
    • Distribution and sales including shipping, warehousing, local testing, promotion and sales
    • Seed exports
    • Royalty collection via certified seed (back to plant breeder)
    • $0.3 B in cost equal line total value created up to this stage equaling $2.6 B
    • Flowing into this stage with an arrow is imports of seed
      • key crops include: canola, corn, vegetables, flowers soybean and navy beans
      • 65 plus symbol different crop types
      • 92 authorized importers
    • 95 seed companies or distributors
    • Flowing out of this stage with an arrow is Exports of seed
      • key crops include: peas, corn, lentil, bean, soybean, alfalfa and rye
      • 50 plus of crop types
      • $0.6 B value

There is an arrow that flows into the next stage retail sales to Canadian farmers. There is a plus sign between the dollar value of this stage and the dollar value in retail sales to Canadian farmers.

  • Retail sales to Canadian farmers
    • Seed sales to Canadian farmers (domestic and imported)
    • Flowing into this stage with an arrow is common and farm saved seed
      • $0.5 B value
    • $2.0 B domestically produced pedigreed seed,
    • $0.5 B from imported seed
    • $0.5 B from common and farm saved seed
    • Equal line to $3.0 B total seed

There is an arrow that flows into the final stage crop production to produce grain and/or feed. There is an equal sign to add the sum of all the previous stages to equal the dollar value in crop production to produce grain and/or feed.

  • Crop production to produce grain and/or feed
    • $33.8 B

The following table is a breakdown of seed potatoes grown in Canada, imported and exported per province from 2018-2019.

Table 1: Seed potatoes grown in Canada, imports and exports by province
Province Seed potato production 2019 (acres) Seed potato production (5 year average) Seed potato exports, value (CAN $) 2018/2019 Seed potato imports 2018-2019
Newfoundland and Labrador 17 59 0 No data
Prince Edward Island 16,946 16,208 5,197,556 No data
Nova Scotia 324 193 155,912 No data
New Brunswick 7,369 8,441 5,756,362 2,734,378
Quebec 7,208 6,862 1,005,200 176,972
Ontario 610 684 342,937 2,300,252
Manitoba 7,972 6,756 1,303,400 1,874, 286
Saskatchewan 3,039 2,933 2,803,377 404,783
Alberta 13,018 11,513 19,134,518 1,233,830
British Columbia 734 811 2,139,887 377,972
Total Canada 57,237 54,460 37,839,149 9,102,473

4.0 Looking ahead

Looking ahead, future considerations for the Seeds Regulations should include:

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