Preserving the Benefits of Innovation

Adoption of Additional Certification Requirements, known as ACRs,  means more growers will benefit from the seed certification system and the latest innovations in variety development.

Canada is respected around the world as a leader in the seed industry, in large part because of its seed certification system. But as new genetic breakthroughs improve seed traits to increase yields and protect against stressors, varietal developers can also specify additional tests and quality controls for their seed to make sure valuable traits or characteristics are preserved.

The Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) recently adopted the ACR option, which was developed for Canadian seed crop certification and is setting the bar for global seed standards. First introduced for Canadian seed crops in 2007, the ACR option came to fruition because midge-tolerant wheat developers and distributors wanted to create a varietal blend to ensure that 10 per cent of a refuge variety was planted.

However, there wasn’t a way to manage this because at the time regulations only permitted certification of crops of a single, uniform varietal identity. The system needed to
be reviewed because an increasing number of unique and valuable, but not always visible, traits were being developed in varieties. The traditional certification process involves the minimum requirements to verify compliance with a developer’s variety (product) description, which mostly relies on visually distinguishable characteristics. But for those new characteristics that are not visually distinguishable, the ACR option was required.

ACRs were also a significant component for the Canadian flax industry and its current reconstituted seed program, as it was recovering from the 2009 Triffid incident. Thanks to certified seed and ACRs, borders to GMO-averse markets were reopened after closing in 2009.

Because of ACRs success in helping maintain the highest quality standards for pedigreed seed in Canada, it’s no surprise that AOSCA — one of the world’s two international seed certifying organizations — has encouraged its member agencies to provide the ACR option to varietal developers.

AOSCA and the France-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Seed Schemes are the two international organizations with minimum seed certification standards that support production, identification, distribution and promotion of certified seed. AOSCA has 50 member agencies throughout Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and the United States.

The fact that AOSCA is making a provision for additional certification requirements is a realization that science and technology continue to grow and develop. ACRs give developers more options, allowing them to use the latest technologies as add-ons while leaning on the strength of the most cost-effective conventional seed certification system.

ACRs provide developers the ability to designate additional tests, isolation or land history, and other requirements that they feel will preserve and protect their varieties’ valuable traits. The option of an ACR means that tests are only required on varieties with traits requiring third-party verification to satisfy both the varietal developer and the end-user/buyer.

ACRs are an important tool that gives varietal developers a choice in quality control for their product. The ability to specify increased standards for agronomic practices, testing or land use history, assures varietal developers that the traits in their new varieties will be passed along to the end-user.

With AOSCA’s adoption of ACRs, more of the world’s seed production will benefit from this important quality control option developed for the Canadian seed sector.

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