CSGA Establishes Guidelines for Pedigreed Feminized Hemp Seed Production

November 18, 2020

As a result of recent Canadian and U.S. regulatory changes for hemp, there has been strong interest and investment in North America in hemp varieties suitable for cannabidiol (CBD) production. Many other countries are also interested in CBD production due to its wide range of potential uses, including therapeutics, cosmetics and food and beverage.

The CSGA has developed certification requirements for these new varieties to allow Canadian plant breeders and seed growers to produce seed for this potentially lucrative market. Hemp seed production under these requirements will help satisfy market demands while maintaining Canada’s excellent reputation for well-regulated, safe, quality products.

Hemp is a naturally dioecious plant with male and female flowers on separate plants. CBD is concentrated in the modified leaves (bracts), which surround the flowers on female hemp plants. New innovative plant breeding and seed production techniques have been developed, resulting in “feminized hemp seed” (FHS) varieties – seeds of these varieties only produce female plants, leading to more CBD per acre.

In Canada, a producer must have a cultivation licence to produce hemp. The Industrial Hemp Regulations administered by Health Canada also specify that commercial hemp crops must be planted with pedigreed seed of a variety approved by Health Canada. Health Canada’s List of Approved Cultivars includes those that consistently produce acceptable levels (less than 0.3%) of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana when produced under Canadian climatic conditions.

With the assistance of a working group from the CSGA’s Plant Breeders’ Committee, and in consultation with the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, two documents were developed and recently approved by the CSGA’s Regulatory Services Committee and the Board of Directors. Now available to Canadian growers, the Guidelines for Certified Seed Production of Feminized Hemp Seed Varieties and Hybrids describes the current understanding and approach or framework for CSGA to certify these new types of seed crops in Canada. The second document describes the specific standards and requirements for Certified seed production of Feminized Hemp Seed (FHS) varieties.

At the end of October, approximately 70 students worldwide, including Gail Harris, CSGA’s Manager of Standards and several other Canadians, completed the University of California, Davis’ online Hemp Breeding and Seed Production course. Gail’s successful completion of this course ensures that CSGA remains up to date with the current understanding of this complicated but exciting crop.

Please email Mike Scheffel, Managing Director, Policy and Standards or Gail Harris, Manager, Standards with any questions regarding the new guidelines and certification requirements.