Procedures for the Registration of Crop Varieties in Canada
Section A - General Information

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1. Legislation

The Seeds Act and Regulations is the federal legislation governing the testing, inspection, quality and sale of seeds in Canada.

Section 3(1)(b) of the Seeds Act states that:

"no person shall sell or advertise for sale in Canada or import into Canada seed of a variety that is not registered in the prescribed manner."

This document clarifies and explains the legislation specified in Part III of the Seeds Regulations (sections 63 to 77) concerning the application process and the variety registration system. Companion documents include the Variety Registration Application Form, and the appropriate objective description form available for most crop kinds.

Copies of the Seeds Act and Regulations and accompanying Schedules, Procedures, etc. are available on the CFIA web site.

2. False or Misleading Statements

It is an offence under the Seeds Act to make a false or misleading statement either verbally or in writing to an official engaged in carrying out his/her duties under this Act. In addition, such statements could result in the refusal or suspension of a registration.

3. Registration

  1. The Seeds Regulations now partitions the list of crop types requiring registration of varieties (Schedule III) into three parts with differing requirements for each part:
    • Part I will continue to require pre-registration testing and merit assessment (see Glossary Section B.7 for a definition of merit), as well as the basic requirements for applications for variety registration,
    • Part II will require pre-registration testing as well as the basic requirements for applications for variety registration,
    • Part III will require basic registration requirements only.
  2. Unless otherwise specified in the certificate of registration, the registration is valid for all provinces and territories of Canada, until such time as the registration is cancelled or suspended, and without any restrictions on the production of seed or commodity.

    Regional tests normally provide the basis for national registration. A variety is to be entered into official tests in the area(s) of anticipated adaptation. If it is supported by a recommending committee (see Section A.9) and granted a registration, it may be imported or sold in all of Canada, except where regional restrictions apply.

  3. When a variety is registered, the Registrar issues a certificate of registration to the applicant. Only one certificate is granted per variety.
  4. The List of Varieties which are Registered in Canada is updated and posted on our website quarterly. The list includes varieties that have been granted national, interim, regional, and contract registrations. As part of a commitment to make synonyms publicly available, all known synonyms are listed.
  5. Where a registration is granted that is limited in duration or geographic scope, or is made subject to a documented quality system (see Section A.4), the registrant will receive a notice from the Registrar by registered mail, giving the reasons for the restriction(s) to the registration.

4. Restricted Registrations

4.1 Interim Registration

  1. An interim registration is normally granted for either of two reasons:
    • production of grain or other commodity for market acceptability tests; or
    • emergency/crisis reasons (e.g. disease).
  2. An interim registration gives all the rights/privileges of full registration, but for a specified period of time only.
  3. An interim registration may be granted initially for a period of up to three years, if requested by the recommending committee, provided the appropriate fees are submitted. Otherwise, a variety will be granted a one year registration.
  4. An interim registration may be renewed for additional periods, to a maximum total life of five years.
  5. An interim registration may be granted on a regional basis, or where the registration restricts the manner in which seed or commodity crop is produced (contract registration).
  6. There is no provision for an interim registration to be granted for undefined periods of time such as from planting date to harvest date. In the case of a winter wheat variety, if the applicant wishes to have the issuance of the registration deferred until fall, this must be indicated on the application. This would prevent the registrant from selling any seed of the variety until the variety is registered.
  7. A minimum of one year of evaluation in variety registration trials is required for an interim registration.
  8. Interim registration provides an avenue to proceed with registration of varieties on an interim basis for the reasons stated above (Section B.4a) while the testing and/or merit of the variety is being confirmed. Since varieties of crop kinds listed in Schedule III, Part III do not require testing or merit assessment, varieties of crop kinds listed in Part III are not eligible for interim registration.

4.2 Regional Registration

  1. In certain cases, some varieties may be desirable in one region, but could cause serious problems in other regions. Regional registration may be granted for crop varieties in those instances where the variety poses a potential threat to agriculture in specific regions for reasons such as seed/grain distinguishability, quality, disease or where the variety or its progeny may be detrimental to human or animal health and safety, or the environment.
  2. For regional variety registration purposes, adverse effects are defined as harm to the industry (e.g. feed wheat in milling wheat). Characteristics related to regional adaptation such as lack of winter hardiness does not constitute an adverse effect. It does not include when a variety has not received all of its approvals in potential foreign markets.

4.3 Contract Registration

  1. This category is used for those varieties where the biochemical or biophysical characteristics distinguish it from the majority of registered varieties and where delivery of the resulting commodity into traditional commodity channels may cause an adverse effect on those channels. Thus, a variety must demonstrate the possibility of causing adverse effects if granted an unrestricted registration in order to qualify for this type of registration. Examples of this include high erucic acid rapeseed and canola quality Brassica juncea, or crops modified to produce cosmetic, pharmaceutical or industrial substances. In addition, a quality control system must be developed to address any regulatory concerns under the Canada Grain Act.
  2. The applicant must make available to the Registrar a quality control system that describes fully how any and all potentially adverse effects of the variety will be managed. Appendix X provides further information. In the case of wheat and barley, the Variety Registration Office will share the quality control system with the Canadian Grain Commission to determine its acceptability. Applicants are advised to consult with The Canada Grain Commission (CGC) on their quality control system, as part of the process of developing their quality assurance manual. This should be done prior to the variety being presented to the registration recommending committee.
  3. The applicant must agree in writing to provide information on the distribution, use and disposition of any seed of the variety or any progeny thereof to the Registrar, upon request. This declaration can be found in the application form.
  4. In some circumstances, the production of crops from the variety will be required to be conducted using sufficient isolation distances for the species. This will be required in cases where cross pollination to grain of a traditional commodity type would have a negative effect on the latter crop, or for physical separation to avoid inadvertent mixing of crops.

5. Eligibility Requirements for Registration

Varieties are only eligible for variety registration if:

  1. the variety or its progeny is not detrimental to human or animal health and safety or the environment when grown and used as intended;
  2. the representative reference sample of the variety does not contain off-types or impurities in excess of the Association's standards for varietal purity;
  3. the variety meets the standards for varietal purity established by the Association or these Regulations for a variety of that species, kind or type;
  4. the variety is distinguishable from all other varieties that were or currently are registered in Canada;
  5. the variety name is not a registered trademark in respect of the variety;
  6. the variety name is not likely to mislead a purchaser with respect to the composition, genetic origin or utility of the variety;
  7. the variety name is not likely to be confused with the name of a variety that was or currently is registered;
  8. the variety name is not likely to offend the public;
  9. no false statement or falsified document and no misleading or incorrect information has been submitted in support of the application for registration; and
  10. the information provided to the Registrar is sufficient to enable the variety to be evaluated. its name could deceive or mislead the purchaser with respect to the composition, genetic origin or utility of the variety.

Where a variety is not eligible for registration, the Registrar will send the applicant a notice by registered mail, stating that the registration has been refused and the reasons for the refusal.

6. Suspension and Cancellation (Deregistration) of Registration

The registration of a variety may be suspended or cancelled if requested by the registrant. Prior to requesting the cancellation of a registration, the registrant is required to check the variety's pedigreed seed availability, and/or develop a disposal plan acceptable to seed growers in possession of pedigreed seed of the variety. The Variety Registration Office will publish a list of varieties whose registrations are proposed for cancellation. If our office is notified in writing that pedigreed seed of a specific variety is still available, and there is still commercial interest in the variety, the cancellation of registration will be deferred pending resolution among the interested parties.

Where the registration of a variety has been suspended or cancelled, the Registrar will send the registrant a notice by registered mail stating that the registration has been suspended or cancelled and the reason(s) for the action.

6.1 Suspension

The Registrar will suspend the registration of a variety for up to two years where:

  1. the variety has an adverse effect on Canadian agriculture and the food system due to disease susceptibility or inferior quality;
  2. seed of the variety has demonstrated significant levels of contamination such that the varietal purity of the variety has been jeopardized;
  3. the variety has been altered in such a manner that it differs from the representative legal reference sample;
  4. the variety or its progeny may be detrimental to human or animal health and safety, or the environment;
  5. false or misleading information was submitted as part of the application; or
  6. the variety name was trademarked after registration.

6.2 Cancellation/Deregistration

The Registrar will cancel the registration of a variety where the variety:

  1. has been altered in such a manner as to convert it to a variety that is registered under a different name;
  2. has been found to be indistinguishable from another variety already registered or known to exist;
  3. is of a crop kind or species no longer subject to the variety registration requirements; or
  4. upon the request of the registrant, with the written permission of the breeder of the variety (see Section B.5.14).

The Registrar may also cancel the registration of any variety whose registration has been suspended for two years and where the reasons for the suspension are still valid.

7. Reinstatement of Registration

The Registrar may, upon written request and the submission of appropriate fees, reinstate the registration of a variety. However, there must be just cause for any reinstatement. In the case of reinstatement of permanent registrations cancelled at the request of the registrant, where a considerable period of time has elapsed since the cancellation, the Variety Registration Office may require the involvement of a recommending committee(s) to determine if the variety in question still has merit. In the case of reinstatement of interim registrations, a recommendation for registration from a recognized committee must accompany the request.

Where more than one year has elapsed since the cancellation, a new legal reference sample and an application form will be required to be submitted.

8. Review of Registration Decisions

8.1 Process

Where the Registrar refuses to register a variety, or grants the variety a registration that is restricted regionally or in duration, or where the registration restricts the manner in which seed or commodity crop is produced (contract registration), the applicant may request that the Registrar review the decision. Similar procedures may be used for the review of the suspension or cancellation of registration.

If there is a valid objection to a registration decision, the Registrar may consult with an expert or group of experts knowledgeable in the area of concern who have no interest in the outcome of the review.

The selected expert(s) will recommend a course of action to the Registrar. The recommendations are not binding on the Registrar.

8.2 Procedures for Application for Appeal of a Registration Decision

  1. The appellant must make a written request to the Registrar within 30 days of receipt of notice that the decision was made.
  2. The appellant must include the reasons for requesting the review along with substantiating information or documentation.

9. Recommending Committees

All committees that recommend varieties for registration must be officially recognized by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for this purpose. Appendix XI lists the currently recognized committees. The names and addresses of the contact persons for each recommending committee is available on the CFIA website.

The roles and responsibilities of recommending committees to make recommendations for crop kinds in Parts I and II are now clearly defined in the Seeds Regulations.

The recommending committees are responsible for:

For crop kinds listed in Part I:

  • Ensuring members of the committee have the knowledge and expertise required to establish and administer testing protocols and determine the merit for varieties of that species, kind or type of crop;
  • Formulating testing procedures that are appropriate for their crop(s);
  • Making recommendations to the CFIA respecting the merit of the variety;
  • Regularly reviewing the testing procedures to ensure that they reflect acceptable scientific practices;
  • Ensuring that reference varieties are current and fairly represent the requirements of Canadian agriculture; and
  • Establishing operating procedures to ensure that its functioning is transparent and that varieties are dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.

For crop kinds listed in Part II:

  • Ensuring members of the committee have the knowledge and expertise required to establish and administer testing protocols for varieties of that species, kind or type of crop;
  • Formulating testing procedures that are appropriate for their crop(s);
  • Making recommendations to the CFIA respecting whether the variety has been tested according to established testing procedures;
  • Regularly reviewing the testing procedures to ensure that they reflect acceptable scientific practices;
  • Ensuring that reference varieties are current and fairly represent the requirements of Canadian agriculture; and
  • Establishing operating procedures to ensure that its functioning is transparent and that varieties are dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.

10. Descriptions of Varieties

As of April 1, 1994, the Variety Registration Office ceased publishing descriptions of registered varieties. Requests for information on specific varieties are referred to the Canadian representative/distributor or breeder.

Detailed information describing the variety is still required as part of the application for crop inspection and variety verification purposes.

11. Confidential Business Information (CBI)

Although pedigree information is required as part of the registration review process, it is not released for hybrid crops as it is considered confidential business information (CBI). Other legitimate forms of CBI may be withheld upon written request of the registrant, and consent of the Registrar. The dissemination of potential CBI is subject to the Access to Information legislation. The withholding of information from dissemination (other than pedigrees of hybrid crops) will require review by Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) officials. The registrant may be required to show just cause under ATIP legislation as to how dissemination would breach confidentiality.

Information on variants/off-types, variety name synonyms, or changes in variety name are considered to be public information and will not be considered CBI.

12. Advertising a Variety Prior to Registration or while under Suspension

  1. Prior to Registration: A company may advertise a variety prior to registration provided all of the following conditions are met:
    • the variety has been supported for registration by a recognized recommending committee (not applicable to varieties of crop kinds in Part III);
    • an application for registration with the appropriate fee has been received by the Variety Registration Office; and
    • the variety advertisement clearly states "registration pending".
    Sales may not occur until registration is granted.
  2. While under Suspension: A variety whose registration is suspended may not be advertised.
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