Stavroula Malla
University of Lethbridge, Alberta
Derek Brewin
University of Manitoba

The Canadian canola sector has transformed over the last 40 decades due to emerging biotechnologies, evolving intellectual property rights, and a changing role for the government. This article examines the overall impact of biotechnology in this sector over time, including the potential producer benefits of several new biotechnologies and the changing role of government, especially the appropriateness of public research and development in Canada. Producers benefit significantly from growing new privately developed canola varieties (in 2012 the value was $726 million). There has been a general increase in the area seeded to canola, the number of varieties available, and the yields of those varieties. Additionally, the new canola varieties offer environmental benefits (e.g., weed control and reduced tillage) and health benefits (or healthcare savings). Canadian governments were initially involved in the direct provision of the applied and basic research that first developed canola. Today they have generally withdrawn from commercial variety development, while facilitating private-sector research and often generating restricted access to basic research results (i.e., exclusive licensing). As such, although federal funding has fallen, Canada’s public sector continues to play an important but shifting role in today’s canola industry, indeed it was jointly responsible for one of the key HT technologies (LibertyLink).

Key words: Biotechnology, intellectual property rights, IPR, privatization, canola, returns to research, producers’ benefits, policies, regulations, government role, research and development, R&D.