Bill C-18 - the Agricultural Growth Act

Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, was introduced by Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in early December 2013.  The Act proposes changes to nine pieces of federal legislation – seven under the oversight of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and two under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Some commentators have expressed concern that this omnibus bill covers too many changes, thereby making it hard to fully understand the implications of the changes; others are lauding it and the promise that the changes will reduce red tape, create new trade opportunities and attract investment.  The Acts to be amended under the Agricultural Growth Act include: Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act, Seeds Act, Health of Animals Act, Plant Protection Act, Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, all under the CFIA, and the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act, and Farm Debt Mediation Act under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

What appears to draw both the most exuberant praise and equally dire warnings are the proposed changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act that will fulfill Minister Ritz’s ambition to bring Canada under UPOV ‘91.  An intergovernmental organization formed in 1961, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieities of Plants (UPOV) seeks to advance the interests of plant breeders by allowing them to claim property rights in countries that sign on to the agreement.  Canada is currently a party to UPOV ‘78, an earlier and, by some interpretations, less insidious version. Those in favour of updating to UPOV ’91 claim this will result in increased investment by seed breeders in Canada; those opposed believe it will mean yet more money extracted from farmers, not only at point of sale of the seed but also at harvest and beyond.

It remains to be seen just what the implications of all the changes proposed in this omnibus agricultural bill will be – for Canada’s farmers, our food security and food economies. However, many farm organizations have weighed in on the discussion. Here is a selection of opinions:

The National Farmers Union Backgrounder on UPOV ’91.

The Federation of Agriculture’s news release on the Agricultural Growth Act.

Farm Focus of Atlantic Canada article on Bill C-18.

iPolitics article on the Agriculture bill.

Western Producer’s article on UPOV 91.

Read the Agricultural Growth Act itself (English, French)