AAFC announces updated seed regulation guidance
May 10, 2023 By Fruit & Vegetable
On May 3, Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, announced updated guidance for seed regulations that will provide clear direction for plant breeders. This will help Canadian farmers access new seed varieties, enhance sustainable food production and be more resilient in the face of today’s challenges. The Government of Canada is also strengthening transparency measures for products of plant breeding innovation and investing in the Canadian Organic Standards to protect the integrity of the organic sector.
Plant breeding innovations allow more effective and efficient development of new plant varieties than through conventional breeding. This can benefit farmers and consumers by providing them with access to plants and seeds that are both safe for humans, animals, and the environment. These varieties can also be more resistant to extreme temperature, precipitation and insects, helping us adapt to climate change, feed a growing population and keep food costs down for consumers.
“As the agriculture sector faces the challenge of feeding a growing world population in the midst of climate change, innovation is an incomparable tool to increase our production safely and sustainably,” Bibeau said in an official statement. “While facilitating the development of new plant varieties from plant breeding innovations, in light of discussions with the government-industry committee, we will protect the integrity of organic certification.”
Through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s updated guidance for Part V of the Seeds Regulations, seed developers will be able to confidently invest in new products while maintaining the high standard of safety that Canada is known for domestically and internationally.
This update builds on a similar update last year to the Novel Food Regulations by Health Canada.
To help maintain the integrity of organic certifications, which allow the use of conventional seed but not gene-edited seed, the government is announcing a series of measures to ensure transparency in how the seed is produced:
- The creation of a Government-Industry Steering Committee on Plant Breeding Innovations Transparency to facilitate ongoing discussions as gene-edited products are introduced in the marketplace;
- Expansion of the Seeds Canada Canadian Variety Transparency Database to provide transparency around individual seed varieties; and
- Federal oversight of the Canadian Variety Transparency Database to ensure the completeness and robustness of the database.
These measures are informed by the recommendations and the work of the Industry-Government Technical Committee on Plant Breeding Innovation Transparency, which is comprised of members from the organic, conventional and seed sectors, as well as officials from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the CFIA and Health Canada. Their continued engagement will enable the Canadian Variety Transparency Database to succeed, ensuring the transparency of seed innovations in Canada.
In addition to these measures, Bibeau announced that the government will once again provide funding to support the review of Canada’s organic standards, which are updated every five years and due for renewal in 2025.
The United States, Japan, Australia, Argentina and Brazil have clarified the pathway for gene-edited products. New Zealand, the UK and the European Union (EU) are in the process of doing so.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians and the environment through science and evidence-based decision-making, and recognizes that new plant breeding innovations, including gene-editing, allow new plant varieties to be developed more efficiently than conventional breeding.
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