The deal, in which Limagrain will have a majority shareholding (70%), has been made possible by a change in the Canadian law, passing C-18 – the Agricultural Growth Act – this year. This effectively adopts an international regulation called UPOV 91 into Canadian law, which gives protection rights for developers of new plant varieties (known as PVP). It allows seed breeders to receive royalties for new wheat strains they develop and get a commercial return for working in the country.
‘Private research activity’
Commenting yesterday (July2) at Limagrain’s reception centre near its headquarters in Chappes in the Auvergne region of France in advance of the formal Canadian announcement of the deal, Limagrain ceo Daniel Chéron said: “Through this PVP evolution it will be possible to collect royalties and to develop private research activity. Otherwise you have no tools to make profit and you need to have a return on investment.”
Chéron said: “The goal is to develop better adapted varieties to the market and then to develop a distribution of these new varieties coming from the research. Canterra will be the distributor of the seeds.” He added that, as part of the deal, Limagrain would also take a 30% minority shareholding in Canterra.
Until now, most research into seed development in Canada had been carried out by universities and public sector institutions, because private companies gained no commercial advantage by doing so. As a consequence, Canadian farmers had started to fall behind those in other parts of the world, which have access to the latest wheat strains offering enhanced characteristics, such as better yield and resistance to pest, etc.
French and Canadian jv
Chéron refused to reveal the value of the new jv investment with Canterra, which like Limagrain is a farmer-owned co-operative involved in supplying rape seeds as well as wheat seeds in Canada.
The PVP mechanism that Canada will operate is based very much the system that has worked so successfully in Australia in helping to see the introduction of new crop strains. However, it is very different to the system that operates in the US where seed breeders depend on patent protection to make a return on their investments.
According to Limagrain research assistant Nate Cooling, who works for Limagrain Cereal Seeds’s operation at Fort Collins in Colorado, while the new PVP system adopted in Canada would benefit US farmers if adopted there, it was unlikely to happen any time soon as many US farmers would be resistant to paying a royalty fee for use of seeds.
However, Chéron noted that the new varieties of seeds developed by the new jv, would be available to farmers in the US if they wished to purchase them. “The object of Limagrain is to give access to the best tools we have in the group to accelerate the progress of these genetic improvements in Canada.”