Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
The introduction of biotechnology and intellectual property rights (IPRs) has completely transformed the canola sector in Canada. Currently, private firms dominate in the research investment and control most of the research output both in terms of new varieties and proprietary technology. In the 1970s, most agricultural research was a result of public investment and research output was a public good. The modification of rapeseed into canola and open pollinated canola into herbicide-resistant and hybrid canola through biotechnology was an agronomic revolution. The changes in this crop led to an area increase from less than 1 million hectares (ha) in 1969 to over 7.5 million ha in 2011; from less than 5 per cent of crop land in Canada to over 30 per cent. Canola revenues are forecasted to be over C$5.5 billion in 2012 (AAFC, 2011). While initial public sector research was a vital first step, the role of biotechnology was pivotal in creating herbicide-tolerant (HT) varieties which then facilitated the mass production of hybrid varieties. Together, patentable HT technology and hybrid seed sales fostered a boom in private canola variety development. Oil pressed from rapeseed has been used for lamps and stoves in Asia and Europe for centuries. This oil was also a valuable lubricant in steam engines in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first major planting of rapeseed in Canada was for use in these steam engines during World War II (Casséus, 2008).
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