Mr. Speaker, Bill C-18, the agricultural growth act, fully deserves the support of the House.
The proposed legislation is both timely and necessary so that Canada's agriculture industry will continue to produce safe and nutritious products and remain competitive in global markets. My support for Bill C-18 rests largely on the latter, on the legislation's potential impacts on the global competitiveness of Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry. This bill is designed to modernize Canada's agricultural legislation and encourage innovation in the sector.
It is fair to say that most Canadians take for granted just how globalized agriculture has become. Two generations ago, few Canadians had ever eaten a mango or an avocado or tasted international cuisines. Today, international foods are all available at neighbourhood supermarkets. Agriculture and agri-food have become a major component of international trade. Billions of dollars' worth of food products are traded around the world, and Canada is a star in the industry. Up to 85% of this country's production of some commodities is exported.
The rise of trade in agri-food products presents several challenges to countries such as Canada, with food safety leading the way. How can we ensure that products from other countries that do not necessarily have the same standards we do for food safety will not jeopardize the health of Canadians? The answer lies in international agreements and conventions, a complex set of negotiated rules based on sound science.
The legislation that is now before us proposes to modernize the regime that governs Canada's trade in this sector.
Let us consider, for instance, the current approach for regulating farm animal feed. The current regime specifies national standards for the composition, safety, and effectiveness of end products. These standards are known as end products controls, but on their own they are not always sufficient to ensure the safety of feeds.
Along with our competitors, such as the United States and the European Union, Canada's trading partners either have already implemented or are in the process of implementing more comprehensive and effective regulatory systems for animal feeds. These systems follow an approach known as hazard analysis and critical control point, or HACCP. Rather than focus on end products, the HACCP approach involves identifying exactly where and when problems are likely to occur in production processes, taking specific actions to prevent these problems, and then carefully monitoring and documenting the results. HACCP-based systems are now standard in most Canadian food production facilities and help ensure that Canada's food supply remains among the safest in the world.
As the international standards pertaining to animal feeds evolve, so too must Canada's, particularly since this country exports so much of its production. Emerging markets such as China and Russia, for instance, have begun to adopt systems-based requirements for imports of animal feed. Under these systems, producers must obtain licences if they want their feeds to enter the country. To obtain a licence, they must register with and be certified by the appropriate government agencies. The United States released new rules for animal feed production and import. These rules require facilities to be licenced.
The agricultural growth act proposes amendments to existing legislation that would promote the safety of agricultural inputs such as animal feed through licensing or registration of feed and fertilizer manufacturers. Bill C-18 would align Canada's relevant legislation with that of our international trading partners. It would also help our feed and fertilizer industries to maintain access to feed export markets such as the United States.
The proposed legislation would enable the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to license or register the fertilizer and animal feed operators and facilities that import or sell products across provincial or international borders, but farmers who produce fertilizer and feed only for their own use on farms or to sell locally would not be subject to the new rules. This nuanced approach is just one of the ways that the proposed legislation effectively balances the interests of producers, farmers, exporters, and consumers
. Another way that Bill C-18 balances these interests is that the legislation would require the development of regulations in consultation with stakeholders. In other words, the specifics of the regulations, such as timing and certification, would be informed through a collaborative exercise with those who would be most affected.
Mr. Clyde Graham, acting president of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, said at SCAAF:
The federal regulatory system has served the industry well for 50 years. It has ensured a science-based and consistent regulatory environment for fertilizers and supplements, which emphasizes the principles of safety and efficacy for all products....
That being said, the fertilizer and supplement industry supports new provisions in the bill that enable tools such as incorporation by reference, licensing, export certificates, and acceptance of equivalent foreign scientific data.
Bill C-18 would also address the challenges of international trade in agriculture in a way that would meet the needs of Canada's plant breeders.
In 1991, countries around the world ratified a new convention, the International Union of Protection of New Varieties of Plants, known as UPOV '91. UPOV '91 is the current international standard for plant breeders' rights. More than 70 countries, including Canada, rely on UPOV to fulfill their obligations to protect plant varieties under the World Trade Organization. However, Canada is one of only two developed countries of UPOV members whose legislation does not comply with the standard of UPOV '91.
The legislation now before us would amend the Plant Breeders' Rights Act and would bring Canada's legislation up to date. It would also better align our regulatory regime with those of many of our key trading partners, including Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
What plant breeders develop is a form of intellectual property. Plant breeding is an intensive process that requires a significant investment of time and effort. It typically takes 10 to 12 years to develop a new variety and bring it to market. Under Canada's current laws, plant breeders' rights are protected for 18 years. Bill C-18 would extend this protection to 25 years for trees, vines and a few other plant categories and to 20 years for all other crops.
The proposed amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act will also benefit Canada's agriculture industry in other important ways. It will, for instance, encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada and give farmers access to more varieties of seeds developed in our country or abroad.
Our government heard from stakeholders about needing to improve the language to make it absolutely clear that storage of seed would be included in farmer's privilege. We now have an amendment to Bill C-18 that addresses this key issue.
With this in mind, I would like to address the 56 amendments that have been proposed by the NDP and the Green Party. These amendments would result in tearing out the heart of the bill, killing this great legislation. As a result, I cannot support these two motions.
I do support Bill C-18, especially now in its revised form. We need this bill as it stands.