Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brandon—Souris.
This government has made no bones about it. Creating jobs and strengthening Canada's economy remains our top priority. Through Bill C-18, we would secure the continued success of one of Canada's prominent industries, agriculture.
In 2009, Canada exported $35 billion in agriculture and agri-food products. Last year, we exported $50.4 billion, and the potential for future growth is substantial.
With the global population expected to reach 9.3 billion by the year 2050, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that in order to feed everyone internationally, food production will need to increase by 60%.
Currently, the world is hungry for the goods that Canadian agriculture producers provide. Bill C-18, the agriculture growth act, would ensure our farmers would have the means to meet that demand. More specific, the act would ensure that Canadian farmers could keep pace and even make gains against competitors like China, Brazil, Russia, Australia, the United States and the European Union.
One way in which Bill C-18 would give Canadian farmers an edge is through the proposed amendment to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, and I will explain.
Canadian agriculture producers cultivate more than 75 million acres of farmland from coast to coast. Ultimately, the value of the harvest depends largely on the quality of the seed sown. To grow the best, Canadian farmers must plant the best. They must sow crop varieties that produce high yields, resist drought and disease, and that meet specific demands in the global market.
This sounds straightforward, but the science behind the development of farmers' all-important seeds is extremely complex.
Plant breeding is a time and resource-intensive process. It typically takes 10 to 12 years to bring a new variety to market. As members can do doubt appreciate, plant breeders have a reasonable desire to own the results of their many years of hard work.
Where inventors protect their intellectual property through patents, plant breeders do the same through plant breeders' rights. These rights give plant breeders control over the sale of the seeds, cuttings and other reproductive material of the new plant varieties they create.
In Canada, all plant species are eligible for protection. The relative strength of our intellectual property environment for the plant breeding industry, however, ends there.
Nearly all of our major international partners, including the United States, the EU, Japan, Australia and even South Korea have an enticing environment that conforms with most current international standards: the 1991 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. Canada's existing plant breeders' rights meanwhile is based on outdated 1978 conventions. We cannot afford to continue to lag behind.
Ms. Patty Townsend, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, an association that brings together 130 seed company members, has said:
Due to our outdated plant breeders' rights legislation, companies with an interest in these crops have chosen to invest elsewhere. Added to that is the fact that plant breeders outside of our borders won't send their varieties here for testing, because our plant breeders' rights legislation has not kept pace with the rest of the world.
We can change this and update the protection. We will encourage private investment in Canadian plant breeding programs, encourage more foreign breeders to protect and sell their varieties here in Canada, and ensure that Canadian agriculture and horticulture producers gain access to the innovative new plant varieties they need to compete in a global marketplace.
Specifically, Bill C-18's proposed changes to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act would improve protection for plant breeders in five ways.
First, the amendments would extend plant breeders' rights to the reproduction, import and export, conditioning and stocking of material for commercial purposes or propagating. Currently, the plant breeders are protected only on the sale of propagating material and for production and propagating material intended for sale.
Second, the amendments would enable plant breeders to sell the new varieties in Canada for up to one year before they must apply for plant breeders' rights protection. For many breeders, this 12-month period would be critical because it would allow them the time to test the market, advertise and increase their seed stock before they filed for protection.
Third, Bill C-18 would entitle plant breeders to exercise their rights while applications were pending by providing provisional protections for a new plant variety from the date the application is filed.
Fourth, Bill C-18 would lengthen the time plant breeders would be protected from 18 years to 25 years for trees, vines and other specified categories, and from 18 to 20 years for all other crops. In both cases, breeders could choose to terminate their rights earlier.
Finally, Bill C-18 would clarify under the act that plant breeders could only collect royalties on the initial sale of a particular cycle of propagating material. Should breeders be denied reasonable opportunities to collect these royalties because of theft or the illicit sharing of propagating materials, they could exercise rights on harvested material.
These are five critical improvements. They are five critical tools that agriculture innovators need to protect their investments and successfully conduct business in today's global marketplace.
Our Conservative government heard from stakeholders that there was a need to amend Bill C-18 to make it absolutely clear that storage of seed is included in farmers' privilege. As a result, we now have an amendment that directly addresses this key issue.
Equally important is that Bill C-18 would balance the interests of agricultural producers and breeders and would ensure benefit-sharing through two specific exemptions.
First, under the research exemption, anyone would be able to study or conduct experiments on protected varieties without seeking permission. This means that Canadian farmers, whose livelihoods are tied to their seeds and soil, would continue to get up-to-date information on potential benefits and drawbacks of those seeds years after the release of a new variety.
Through the second exemption, the breeders' exemption, anyone could access protected varieties to breed other new varieties without seeking permission. What this means is that profits would not stand in the way of innovation and progress. Competing plant breeders would have open access to all PBR protected varieties for breeding purposes so that they could build and improve upon the work of others. By extension, every Canadian farmer would be able to benefit from a competitive breeding environment, which would bring new and innovative plant varieties to the marketplace to meet their specific needs.
I do, however, support the amendments as they stand in the agricultural growth act, and I do not use that title lightly. This act would improve the quality of agricultural inputs and would increase the global demand for Canada's agriculture goods. I ask Parliament to join me in supporting Bill C-18.
I have gone back to my riding and have talked about Bill C-18. There has been a lot of confusion and a lot of misinformation spread by different parties that does not really benefit the industry. However, when I have sat down with farmers and have told them the exact benefits and gains they would be getting from plant breeders' rights and what benefits they would see in the future, they have been very excited. They understand what can happen when they invest in new seed technologies.
I look at the canola industry back to Saskatchewan. When I was farming back in the early 2000s, if people had a 20 or 25 bushel crop, that was an average crop. If people had a 35 or 40 bushel crop, that was a tremendous crop. If people had a 50 or 60 bushel crop, they were just fibbing or lying. Today, the reality is that 50 or 60 bushels is quite common, 40 bushels is okay, and 20 or 25 bushels is a disaster. The changes that have happened are because of plant breeding. It is because we have invested in new genetics. Those new genetics have been marketed to farmers, and they have been able to take advantage of it.
The return per acre for the farmer in this situation has been phenomenal. When we look at a 20 or 25 bushel crop going to a 60 or 65 bushel crop, their return per acre is more than doubling. When we look at the operations farmers have, their incomes are definitely going up substantially. That is why the farmers get very excited.
If we can take that technology and logic and put it into wheat, barley, pulses, and lentils in our agriculture sector, we can see the benefits to farmers. That is why they get really excited about the potential of seeing this type of investment here in Canada. In fact, we are already seeing companies investing here in Canada. We are already seeing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada taking advantage of new varieties. The collaboration and the growth from new companies and the work Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has done is very exciting for farmers. It is going to make a very exciting and very strong future for Canadian farmers, especially young farmers.
I will close there. This is such a basic act. It has been modernizing our agriculture sector. It is something it requires and has asked for, and we are just doing what it wants. The benefit at the end of the day will be for all Canadians, because when Canadian farmers grow and harvest a good crop, they spend money, and the Canadian economy flourishes.