Questions and Answers: The Use of Variety Names and the Import and Sale of Unregistered Varieties

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The use of variety names

What are the regulations related to the use of variety names on seed?

Schedule II of the Seeds Regulations lists over 70 crop kinds which may only be named as to variety when the seed is of pedigreed status.

Both pedigreed and non-pedigreed seed of the crop kinds not listed in Schedule II of the Regulations may be sold by variety name.

For example, if a producer plants pedigreed seed of a crop kind listed in Schedule II, but the field has not been inspected nor has a seed crop certificate been issued, any progeny sold as seed must be considered common seed and cannot be labelled with a variety name. The common seed can be graded, labelled and sold as Common No. 1 or Common No. 2 (or in the case of canola, Common), if it meets the quality standards for those grades. It cannot be included in a Certified Mixture or a Varietal Blend.

What are the laws about using variety names on grain?

The Seeds Act and the Regulations do not provide authority over the use of variety names on grain. When a grain crop is delivered to a grain elevator, it is expected to be of a variety eligible for a stated specific class according to the regulations and policies of the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC).

The labelling, advertising, sale and import of seed

What are the regulations related to the use of variety names in the labelling, advertising and sale of seed?

For the crop kinds listed in Schedule II of the Regulations, only pedigreed seed that has been grown, processed, sampled, tested and graded as set out in the Regulations may be labelled, advertised or sold with a variety name. Common (non-pedigreed) seed of the crop kinds listed in Schedule II may not be labelled, advertised or sold with a variety name.

The Seeds Act prohibits the sale of unregistered varieties of the crop kinds listed in Schedule III of the Regulations, except as provided for by subsection 5(4) of the Regulations. Seed of an unregistered variety of a crop kind listed in Schedule III may not be labelled as common seed and sold without its variety name in an attempt to circumvent the Seeds Act.

Subsection 5(4) of the Regulations allows for the sale of unregistered varieties of pedigreed seed only when the seed is being used for

  • the production of pedigreed seed; or
  • the production of a crop for evaluation of its suitability for processing, if the variety is entered into variety registration trials.

What are the laws about importing seed of unregistered varieties?

The Seeds Act and the Regulations prohibit the importation of seed of unregistered varieties of the crop kinds listed in Schedule III, except when the seed is being used for one or more of the following purposes:

  • conditioning
  • research
  • seeding by the importer*, or
  • sale pursuant to subsection 5(4).

*The exemption for seeding by the importer does not apply to imports of unregistered varieties of spring, winter or durum wheat into the Canadian Wheat Board area.

How are imports monitored for unregistered varieties?

Import documentation is reviewed to verify that all import requirements, including registration status, have been met prior to the issuance of a notice of import conformity. A notice of import conformity is issued by either the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA's) Import Conformity Assessment Office (Saskatoon Laboratory, Seed Science and Technology Section) or, in the case of seed imported by an authorized importer, by an individual accredited by the CFIA under section 13.1 of the Regulations.

Except for the specific exemptions outlined above, the importation of seed of unregistered varieties of the crop kinds listed in Schedule III is prohibited.

Non-pedigreed seed of forage crops does not need to be named by variety on import documentation.

Definitions

What is a variety?

The definition of a plant variety is synonymous with the definition of a "cultivar" provided by the International Union of Biological Sciences' Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants. A variety denotes a group of cultivated plants, including hybrids constituted by controlled cross-pollination, that: a) are distinguished by common morphological, physiological, cytological, chemical or other characteristics, and, b) retain their characteristics when reproduced. A variety must therefore be distinguishable, uniform, and stable.

What is "pedigreed seed"?

There are five categories of pedigreed seed:

  • Breeder
  • Select
  • Foundation
  • Registered
  • Certified

The pedigree of the seed provides information about the number of generations of multiplication from Breeder seed, and provides confidence in the varietal purity of the seed. The production of pedigreed seed through the seed certification system protects the interests of the purchasers, by providing third party assurances that the seed meets prescribed standards of quality and has the characteristics attributed to the variety.

What is "common seed"?

The term "common seed" (lower case c) refers to non-pedigreed seed whose varietal origin or purity is uncertain. Common seed can also include seed that has lost its pedigreed status because it has been found not to meet the variety's purity standard or the prescribed quality standard.

What do seed grade names indicate?

Seed grade names indicate that the seed lot has been sampled, tested and graded as per the Regulations and has met the prescribed quality standards as detailed in Schedule I of the Regulations.

A grade name has two components:

  • the first component indicates the status of the seed (i.e. pedigreed status or common status); and
  • the second component (i.e. No. 1 or No. 2) provides assurances that the seed lot has met the prescribed standards for percentage germination, weed seeds, seeds of other crop species and disease.

Most agricultural seeds cannot be sold in Canada by variety name if they are labelled with a Common grade name.

What are Schedule II and Schedule III of the Regulations?

Schedule II of the Regulations lists over 70 crop kinds that can only be named as to variety when the seed is of pedigreed status.

Schedule III lists 52 crop kinds, the varieties of which must be registered prior to sale or import into Canada.

What is a registered variety?

The term "registered variety" refers to varieties of crop kinds that have been granted variety registration in Canada. Crop kinds subject to variety registration in Canada are listed in Schedule III of the Seeds Regulations. Not all crops are subject to registration. The CFIA Variety Registration Office and the Registrar, Variety Registration are responsible for registering varieties in Canada. The List of Varieties which are Registered in Canada can be found on the CFIA website.

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