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

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Canada's variety registration system provides assurances that varieties of the major agricultural field crops grown in Canada will produce high quality crops, adapted to Canadian production systems and the Canadian growing environment. The variety registration system ensures that the variety will be of value to Canadian producers and meet expectations as to the performance of the variety including agronomic attributes, disease tolerance and end-use suitability.

The import, production and sale of unregistered varieties, even when not named as to variety, risks the introduction of plant varieties and plant genetics that may have negative effects on the Canadian agricultural system and the environment.

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:

  • are distinguished by common morphological, physiological, cytological, chemical or other characteristics; and,
  • retain their characteristics when reproduced.

A variety must therefore be distinguishable, uniform, and stable.

What is pedigreed seed?

There are five categories of pedigreed status seed starting with Breeder status seed:

  • Breeder
  • Select
  • Foundation
  • Registered
  • Certified

In Canada, the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (the CSGA) approves high generation seed as Breeder seed. The variety developer or designated maintainer preserves the purity and identity of the variety over time by planting Breeder status seed and controlling the identity and purity of the seed produced. In self-pollinated kinds, Breeder seed is planted to produce Select status seed, which is planted to produce Foundation status seed;Foundation status seed is planted to produce Registered status seed which is planted to produce Certified status seed. In open-pollinated kinds only Breeder, Foundation and Certified pedigreed status are recognized.

Certified status seed cannot be used to produce another generation of pedigreed Certified seed except under special circumstances. Certified seed may be planted to produce common, non-pedigreed seed. Each generation has different crop (field) and seed standards with the higher generations having the most rigorous standards.

The pedigreed status of the seed provides information about the number of generations of multiplication from Breeder seed, and provides confidence in the varietal identity and 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 quality standards and has the characteristics attributed to the variety.

What is common seed?

The term common seed 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 varietal purity standard or the prescribed quality standard.

Seed of the kinds listed in Schedule I (the Grade Tables) to the Seeds Regulations (the Regulations), other than vegetable seed, must be labelled with a grade name prior to sale in Canada.Therefore, even common, non-pedigreed seed of those kinds, must be graded with a Common grade name and must meet the standards for that grade in order to be sold in Canada.

What is a grade name?

Seed grade names indicate that the seed lot has been sampled, tested and graded according to the Regulations and has met the quality standards established in the Grade Tables.

A grade name (e.g., Canada Certified No. 1) has two components:

  • the first component indicates the pedigreed status of the seed (e.g., Foundation, Registered, Certified or Common status); and
  • the second component (e.g., No. 1 or No. 2) indicates the prescribed standards that the seed meets for percentage germination, weed seeds, seeds of other kinds and disease.

What is a registered variety?

The term registered variety refers to a variety that has been registered in Canada under Part III of the Regulations. Schedule III to the Regulations lists the kinds subject to variety registration. The list of varieties registered in Canada can be found on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website.

Legislation and Regulation

What is the legislative authority related to the use of variety names on seed?

The Seeds Act prohibits the sale of seed that is not registered in the prescribed manner. Schedule III to the Regulations lists the kinds subject to variety registration. Seed of these kinds may not be sold unless the seed is of a registered variety. There are, however, a few exemptions to this regulation as described further below in this document.

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

The Regulations establish conditions for the use of variety names on the label or package of seed as well as invoices, documents or advertising related to that seed.

  • Schedule II to the Seeds Regulations

Schedule II lists over 70 species of agricultural crops that may only be advertised or sold by variety name if the seed is graded with Canada pedigreed grade name.Seed of these kinds graded with a Common grade name may not be sold by variety name.

Variety names may be applied to mixtures and varietal blends of the kinds listed in Schedule II if the mixture or blend was made by an approved conditioner registered under Part IV of the Regulations, and all of the seed named by variety is pedigreed seed. In the case of an imported mixture or blend including kinds listed in Schedule II, the seed must be accompanied at the time of importation by a certificate (e.g., an official seed certification label) issued by an official certifying agency confirming that all of the seed named by variety is pedigreed seed.

Seed of a vegetable-type variety of a kind listed in Schedule II may be sold or advertised by variety name.

Seed of the kinds listed in Schedule II may be sold by variety name for the purposes of conditioning if the seed is of pedigreed status and:

  • If the seed is in fastened (sealed) packages, a pedigreed status tag is attached to each package;
  • if the seed is in un-fastened packages, it is accompanied by a grower's declaration and the seed moves directly from the grower to an approved conditioner or between approved conditioners.

When seed of kinds listed in Schedule II loses its pedigreed status (becomes common seed) it can no longer be named as to variety. Seed loses its pedigreed status when:

  • sealed packages are opened elsewhere than an approved conditioner;
  • the seed moves in unsealed packages to a place that is not an approved conditioner or a bulk storage facility;
  • the crop certificate issued by the CSGA is withdrawn; or
  • the seed has been contaminated such that it does not meet the varietal purity standards.
  • Schedule III to the Seeds Regulations

Seed of varieties of the 53 kinds listed in Schedule III must be registered in Canada in order to be imported into or sold in Canada. Seed of an unregistered variety of a kind listed in Schedule III may not be sold in Canada as common seed or in seed mixtures or varietal blends, even when not named as to variety.

  • Exemptions

Subsection 5(4) of the Regulations allows for the sale and advertising of seed of unregistered varieties of kinds in Schedule III when the seed is pedigreed seed used for:

  • the production of pedigreed seed pursuant to a contract where all the progeny is delivered to a destination specified in the contract; or
  • the production of a crop for evaluation of its suitability for processing, if the variety is entered into variety registration trials and all the progeny is delivered to an industrial mill or plant for the sole purpose of evaluating its suitability for processing.

Under these conditions the seed must be tagged with an orange unregistered variety tag (CFIA/ACIA 0039 – intended for internal use). If the seed is imported, then the country or state of the official certifying agency and the pedigreed reference number of the seed lot must be stated on the unregistered variety tag.

Unregistered varieties undergoing variety registration trials may be multiplied in anticipation of sale at the time of variety registration. In this case the seed production must be held separately and not sold except for the production of more pedigreed seed in anticipation of variety registration.

What are the rules about using variety names on grain?

The Regulations prescribe the conditions for the use of variety names on seed for propagation, but not on grain for consumption. 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).

Labelling, Advertising, and Sale of Seed

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

For the kinds listed in Schedule II to 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 kinds listed in Schedule II may not be labelled, advertised or sold with a variety name and the variety name may not appear on any label or package of seed, or any invoice, document or advertising related to that seed. Vegetable type varieties are exempt from this condition and common seed of these types may be sold by variety name.

Importing Seed

What are the rules about importing seed of unregistered varieties?

The Seeds Act and the Regulations prohibit the import of seed of unregistered varieties of the 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 (except wheat in western Canada, see below), or
  • sale pursuant to subsection 5(4).

Despite the exemption for seeding by the importer, it is prohibited to import unregistered varieties of spring, winter or durum wheat into the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the Creston-Wyndell Area and Peace River District of British Columbia.

What does seeding by the importer mean?

Unregistered varieties of the 53 crops kinds listed in Schedule III to the Regulations may be imported for seeding by the importer. The importer may plant the imported seed and save seed for planting in subsequent years, but may not share the seed with others, sell the seed, or otherwise distribute the seed. In no case can unregistered varieties of spring, winter or durum wheat be imported for seeding by the importer into the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta or the Creston-Wyndell Area and the Peace River District of British Columbia.

What are the requirements for the multiplication in Canada of seed of unregistered varieties of seed of foreign origin?

Subsection 5(4) of the Regulations provides an exemption for the multiplication of seed of foreign origin of varieties of kinds in Schedule III that are not registered in Canada. Imported seed must be of pedigreed status and must be multiplied under the terms of a contract that specifies that all the progeny of the multiplication must be delivered to a destination specified in the contract.

How are imports monitored for unregistered varieties?

The name of the variety of the seed must be indicated on import documentation for all kinds in Schedule III, with the exception of non-pedigreed seed of forage crops.

The CFIA, and importers who are authorized by the CFIA, review import documentation to verify that the seed conforms to Canadian import requirements, including registration status. A notice of import conformity is issued by either the 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 as a Seed Import Conformity Assessment Agent.

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

What are the requirements for the import or sale of seed of varieties of kinds not in Schedule III?

Seed of varieties of kinds not in Schedule III to the Regulations may be imported and sold in Canada provided the seed meets the minimum quality and phytosanitary standards for importation and sale. If the seed is intended to be planted for the production of pedigreed seed then the variety must be eligible for seed crop certification by the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA). Applicants must provide a completed CSGA Form 300 to the CSGA to determine the eligibility of the seed for certification by the CSGA

Can I import or sell seed of an unregistered variety as common seed and not indicate the variety name?

Seed of unregistered varieties of kinds listed in Schedule III may not be sold as common seed whether or not the seed is named as to variety. It is prohibited to include seed of an unregistered variety of a kind listed in Schedule III in seed mixtures or varietal blends, even if the seed is not named as to variety.

Can I import seed for propagation of an unregistered variety if I declare it as grain at the border?

Declaring imported seed (intended for propagation) of an unregistered variety as grain (for consumption, not propagation) in order to circumvent the seed import requirements is illegal, considered a false declaration to an agent of the Canadian Border Services Agency as well as a contravention of the Seeds Act and the Regulations, and is subject to enforcement actions.

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