Horticultural farm cash receipts totaled CAN$8.6 billion in Canada in 2014. Horticultural crops have dominated the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office application submissions. In this paper, we first examine the application pattern of plant breeders’ rights (PBR) for horticultural crops following the enactment of the Canadian Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in 1990. Second, we assess whether stronger intellectual property rights (IPR) are needed to boost plant variety development. Plant breeders’ rights applications and grants data from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from 1992–2014 are used to examine how PBR applications by public and private institutions have evolved in response to reductions in research and development funding for horticultural crop research by Canadian public institutions and changes to plant variety protection policies. We show that the bulk of PBR applications are for ornamental crops (followed by vegetables and fruits) involving mostly Rosa and Pelargonium and originate from European and U.S. corporations. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada accounted for 35% and 53% of the total apple and cherry applications, respectively. Since 2005, applications for ornamental varieties have declined, suggesting the perception of a weak intellectual property protection environment. The PBR system allows farm-saved seed or propagating material use, while plant breeders can use germplasm material in new line breeding activities. Stronger IPR and royalty collection systems may promote greater private plant breeding and commercialization of new varieties for the heterogeneous Canadian horticultural crop industry.
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