CSGA, in principle, supports Canada’s science based system to assess risk of novel foods, novel feeds and plants with novel traits (PNT’s) on a product specific basis. CSGA, however, encourages the Government of Canada to clearly delineate, or identify, plant products derived through genetic engineering as a means to reduce, or eliminate, potential confusion surrounding Canada’s broad definition when dealing internationally and with our trading partners.
CSGA encourages Canadian regulators to perform a tiered risk assessment of new plant products derived through genetic engineering so that low to minimal risk products have a reduced requirement for data intensive submissions as a means to encourage research and innovation in new products by all developers of seed varieties.
CSGA encourages industry and government to work closely on a non-regulatory framework that could, on a case by case basis, keep new PNT’s in confined trials when the new PNT is deemed to cause loss, or potential loss, of primary markets for the conventional crop.
Genetic Engineering – Product Labeling
CSGA supports Canada’s mandatory labeling guidelines for novel foods when it is shown substantial equivalence is not present (a compositional or nutritional change has occurred) or when it is shown an allergen has been introduced to the product. Furthermore, CSGA supports the labeling of such products on the basis of the change to the product.
CSGA supports Canada’s voluntary labeling standards when the labeling claims relate to consumer choice as compared to food nutrition or safety. CSGA supports the development of voluntary standards that provide for truthful, understandable and not misleading claims on both the presence and absence of the application of a particular production process.
Genetic Engineering – Standards
CSGA supports domestic and international development and harmonization of standards, tolerances, testing methodologies and sampling procedures that are capable of implementation by growers, handlers and processors of GE and non-GE crops and food products.
CSGA will respond to requests from industry and/or government for the development and enforcement of standards and regulations related to identity preservation systems to ensure marketplace requirements are met. CSGA will respond to such requests when they relate to either a product quality assurance requirement (specialty products) or a production process requirement (genetically engineered, organic, etc.).
Genetic Engineering – GURTs
CSGA recognizes that for genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs), as with any new technology, a period of scientific study and evaluation is needed prior to adoption. GURT science is in its infancy and it is not possible to comment on specific applications that are not yet developed. However, the GURT technology does have the potential to create useful tools for agriculture.
CSGA supports the application of Canada’s science-based regulatory oversight and risk assessment, as well as information and awareness programs. The CSGA encourages GURT research and debate on implementing any GURT technologies based on the specifics of their application and the context for their use.
CSGA supports a predictable, flexible regulatory system that encourages innovation and investment. In this regard, CSGA supports a tiered variety registration system characterized by Crop Specific Consultative Groups through which individual crop kinds, and all the components of the value-chain associated with those crop kinds, can tailor the variety registration system to their needs. CSGA also supports a risk based, identity preserved contract registration system that recognizes market pull demands for certain varieties that would not otherwise meet variety registration requirements.
The CSGA supports pre-registration variety performance testing for all crop kinds unless a suitable alternative is in place.
The CSGA supports a provision for merit assessment of new varieties.
Plant Breeders’ Rights
CSGA supports the revisions to PBR with the following conditions:
i) the farmers’ privilege provision should provide the right for the farmer to save and condition, or have conditioned, legitimately acquired varieties for his/her own future use, but not for sale to others;
ii) disclosure of the cascading right needs to be made at time of seed purchase to remove uncertainty of future liability related to the payment of fees or royalties;
iii) the extension of the term of breeders’ rights should be limited to the minimum number of years provided for by UPOV ’91
CSGA continues to support PBR but requests that public research programs for public varieties should be expanded from current levels.
The CSGA recognizes that:
(i) Continued improvements through plant breeding are an essential phase of agricultural research to increase crop production efficiency and enhance product quality.
(ii) New developments in biotechnology provide potentially valuable new tools to achieve plant breeding objectives.
(iii) Patenting of manipulated genes and genetic components provides an incentive for their development and research, but creates possible restrictions on their wider and beneficial use.
The CSGA supports the view that:
(i) Plant genes or genetic components which express useful genetic traits, that are of actual or potential value in agriculture, should be eligible for patents.
(ii) Patents should not cover broad characteristics of a crop variety nor broad procedures or methods – only to the results of the manipulation.
In recognition of developments in intellectual property protection, CSGA supports the view that:
(i) The genes or genetic components of seeds and plants that meet the criteria of novelty, non-obviousness and utility should be recognized as subject to the Patent Act, provided that the patent holders’ rights are limited by the restrictions outlined in sections (ii) and (iii) below.
(ii) An experimental use exemption in the Patent Act should clarify research exemptions for non-commercial study and research to investigate properties or create a new product or process. Affordable access to basic or platform technology is essential for Canadian plant breeders.
(iii) Patent protection should not prevent the use, by Canadian plant breeders, of the genes or genetic components of agricultural crops. The use of patent protection should be accompanied by a reasonable level of compensation payable to the holder of the patent but this payment should apply only if and when a new variety is released in which the gene is expressed.
(iv) As environmental risk management research and development in biotechnology advances, and legal precedents are established to improve our understanding of liability issues, federal legislation should be drafted to protect against unjustified claims of either:
– contamination damage; or
– patent infringement; with respect to the adventitious (accidental) or natural presence of patented seed and/or genetic components.
Access & Benefit Sharing
CSGA supports the principles of simplicity, effectiveness and equitability in Canada’s approach to the development of an Access and Benefit Sharing Protocol for the international exchange of germplasm. CSGA further supports the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as the vehicle for exchange of germplasm for food and agriculture.
Funding Research & End Point Royalties
Policies, programs, structures and regulatory systems to fund both public and private plant breeding and research should reward the plant breeding community for investment in new varieties; encourage increased use of Certified seed; and stimulate investment in innovation
Policies, programs, structures and regulatory systems should recognize and enhance the role of both the public and private sectors in plant breeding and take into account the significant role the entire seed sector plays in delivering innovation to farmers.
Any end point royalty or delivered grain levy system should reward farmers for the use of Certified seed. This might be accomplished by not having the levy collected on grain where Certified seed was used to plant the crop.