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Home > News > Press Releases > Government Appoints the Canada Organic Trade Association to the Plant Breeders' Rights Advisory Committee

Government Appoints the Canada Organic Trade Association to the Plant Breeders' Rights Advisory Committee

Matthew Holmes
(613) 482-1717
Ottawa , ON
September 24, 2015
) — 

For the first time, Canada's organic sector will have representation at an influential advisory committee, ensuring organic's needs and concerns are reflected in policies on plant breeding, intellectual property rights and seed.

In June, the Minister of Agriculture appointed the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) to the Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Advisory Committee, which advises the PBR Commissioner at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and is mandated under the Plant Breeders' Rights Act. At its summer retreat, the COTA Board of Directors named Matthew Holmes, COTA Executive Director, to represent the organization during its three-year term.

"This is the first round of new members in the PBR Advisory Committee since 2006, and we are very pleased that organic is now sitting at the table," said Holmes. "Organic is one of the fastest growing sectors in Canadian agriculture, and this appointment underscores the government's recognition of the organic sector's importance and relevance in setting agricultural policy."

Canada has over 3,700 certified organic producers, with approximately 870,000 hectares of land. Organic farmers have specific crop and variety needs that are often not met by today's commercial plant breeders. Recent research on the organic seed market published by COTA as part of The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security stressed the necessity for more organic varieties to be developed in the future.

"We need to increase research and development of organic varieties that respond to the needs of organic producers," declared Holmes. "Our intent is to ensure that the changes in the PBR Act will help trigger the investment that the fast-growing organic sector needs."

Amendments to the PBR Act which came into force in February 2015 have broad implications for how farmers can plant, save and sell seed, as well as the intellectual property rights of those who develop them. During expert testimony before Parliamentary Committees last fall, COTA played a strong role in advocating for the ongoing protection of farmers' rights to save and condition their own seed -- changes which were eventually included in the amended legislation.

In light of his new role on the Advisory Committee, Holmes added: "We will use our voice at this table to continue to speak for the organic sector, and to ensure that the implementation of the new Act is balanced and that all farmers have access to the seed they need."

The first meeting of the newly appointed PBR Advisory Committee is expected to take place following the sitting of Canada's new Parliament.

The Canada Organic Trade Association is a member-based organization representing the entire organic value-chain. Its mandate it to promote and protect the growth of organic trade in Canada to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.