Pulse crops eyed for fast-tracked registration

Lentil, field pea, field bean and faba bean growers are being asked to consider a proposal under which new varieties submitted for federal registration could skip one or two levels of assessment they now receive.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency last week released a draft discussion document as part of an overall review of the variety registration process asking growers and other industry players to consider the “positive and/or negative impacts” of moving those pulse crops from Part I in Schedule III of the federal Seeds Regulations, into either Part II or III.

Interested parties have been asked to review the document and submit responses to its consultation questions by June 30.

The CFIA said the changeover will be initiated if “pulse value chain stakeholders identify that a change in pulse crop placement within Schedule III is warranted” and when “the rationale and consensus for the proposed changes have been established.”

Right now, applications for registration of new varieties of those species must include at least two years of pre-registration testing and merit assessment by a recommending committee.

There has been “some indication from industry, that it may be more appropriate for these species to be under Part II, which does not require merit assessment, or Part III, which does not require either merit assessment or pre-registration testing.”

“It is expected that the removal of merit assessment would encourage investment in the development of niche or specialty varieties which may not meet standard merit criteria.”

Movement of such pulse crops to Part II is expected to have “minimal impact” on the time to market for new varieties, CFIA said, noting re-registration field testing would still be required for variety registration. Registration of pulses would continue to rest with CFIA, as would the right to cancel variety registration.

The main issue, CFIA said in its discussion document, is that the regulatory burden in both time and money (CFIA fees for reviews of applications) imposed by registration requirements for pulse crop varieties should be “commensurate with risk and not be unnecessarily burdensome.”

Today, varieties that have gone through the two years of pre-registration testing are then assessed by a recommending committee to see whether the varieties perform as well as or better than reference varieties. If a recommending committee finds that a new variety has merit, it will recommend the variety to CFIA for registration.

The currently registered pulse crop varieties in Canada include 158 field bean varieties, 113 field peas, 52 lentils and 12 small-seeded faba beans. Of those 335, 80 were registered in the past five years.

Of the 80 pulses registered, 63 were developed in public breeding programs and 17 in private breeding programs.

Given that most pulse variety developers are in the public sector, “this change would benefit them most,” CFIA said in its discussion document. A reduced regulatory burden could also spur the private sector’s interest in pulse breeding by providing a faster return on investment.

The CFIA had earlier proposed that new oilseed soybean and forage varieties would go through a shorter, less expensive federal registration process.

The proposal would move to “Schedule III, Part III” in variety registration process.

The changes, CFIA said, are expected to “reduce the monetary and regulatory burden on industry and small businesses and encourage investments in the development of new varieties” of soybeans and forages.

CFIA proposes to move crop types from Part I to Part III in cases “where pre-registration testing and merit assessment are deemed to be excessively burdensome or ineffective.”

For Part III crops, no recommending committee is involved in bringing varieties forward for registration, the agency said. Food-type soybean varieties (not to be confused with oilseed types) are already exempt from the registration process.

The proposed amendment to the Seeds Regulations, CFIA said, “would benefit both large multinational and small local breeding companies (but) the smaller companies would see a greater benefit as the reduced costs for variety registration would represent greater relative savings.”

“In general, this regulatory change will allow farmers to access more quickly a wider selection of new varieties of seed produced by both large and small breeding programs,” the agency said.

But it’s possible that pulling the merit assessment requirement, CFIA said, “may result in registration, and subsequent cultivation, of varieties that are less agronomically adapted to their area.”

Rallies planned to protest RR alfalfa

staff / The National Farmers Union and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network are staging protests across Canada April 9 in a bid to stop the introduction of Roundup Ready alfalfa in this country.

The rallies will target MP constituency offices, government and corporate offices in 12 Ontario communities and at 11 locations in other provinces, including Brandon.

The protesters are drawing attention to the pending registration and commercial release of the genetically modified alfalfa, which they say will contaminate non-GM and organic alfalfa through cross-pollination.

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Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Writer and editor. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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