Settlement reached over wheat sale

Midge tolerant variety sold illegally | Producer who sold AC Unity VB didn’t have licence to do so

A Saskatchewan seed grower who sold a midge tolerant wheat variety without proper authorization has reached a settlement in a legal action initiated by SeCan.


Gary Christianson and Eastway Holdings of Naicam, Sask., reached an agreement with SeCan last month. 


Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


The settlement stemmed from the illegal, unauthorized sale of a midge tolerant SeCan wheat variety, AC Unity VB.


Christianson is not a member of SeCan and did not have a licence to grow or sell AC Unity VB as pedigreed seed.


Despite this, an undisclosed amount of the variety was sold to growers as both certified and common seed.


Lorne Hadley, executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency, said Christianson acquired high-generation pedigreed stocks of Unity VB from an undisclosed source.


The seed was then multiplied and sold to commercial grain growers for 2012 planting.


Hadley said commercial grain growers who bought the seed from Christianson did not sign midge tolerant stewardship agreements, at least not initially. 


Those farmers have since been contacted and have agreed to sign a stewardship agreements, which are aimed at slowing midge resistance to the midge tolerant variety, Hadley said.


“We want to make sure that every producer, when they buy certified (midge tolerant seed), signs and agrees to the terms of the wheat midge stewardship campaign so that we can work collaboratively to preserve this (technology) as long as possible.”


Todd Hyra, Secan’s business manager for Western Canada, said the case involving Christianson was unique, not only because it involved a midge tolerant variety but also because it involved a significant amount of seed that was being produced without authorization in contravention of midge tolerant stewardship protocols.


“They (the Christiansons) are not SeCan members and were not authorized to produce or sell (AC Unity VB,” Hyra said.


Neither Hadley nor Hyra would confirm how much seed Christianson sold.


“We can’t disclose the totals,” Hyra said. “We know them, but we can’t disclose them.”


“It’s a significant amount,” added Hadley.


“Otherwise, SeCan would not have gone forward.”


The midge tolerant technology used in AC Unity VB and other wheat varieties is conferred by a single gene known as Sm1.


To prolong the gene’s usefulness, farmers who grow midge tolerant wheat varieties must agree to certain terms and conditions designed to prolong the gene’s effectiveness.


Hyra said there are several new midge tolerant wheat blends due to enter the commercial market in the near future, including new CPS wheat varieties and the first new midge tolerant durum variety, due out in a few years.


“All of those new varieties will rely on the same technology so it really reinforces the importance of ensuring that the stewardship protocol is followed,” he said.