New Tomato Breeds
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Laurie
Posted on: October 09, 2012

I have been breeding a new tomato for the past 10 or so years, using my grandfather’s methods. I’ve saved the seeds from the tomatoes I liked, isolated the plants, hand fertilized to be sure of I don’t accidentally crossbreed.... The result is a large Roma tomato, bright yellow with faint gold stripes I’ve named Goldie’s after my Mom. They produce well in cold climates (Ottawa area, Ont), need a regular source of water, and are average 3-4 inches long. They have bred true for the past 2 years. As have their sister plants from the same original red & gold striped roman tomato. I have not yet named the red ones, they are bright red with faint orange stripes and very large and meaty. I was wondering how one goes about registering new tomato breeds and selling the seeds. I notice that you carryseveral exclusive new breeds and was wondering if you have any advice.

Protecting one’s innovative plant varieties is a challenge. Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all strategem for breeders, especially small breeders. Much depends on which countries you want protection, and how much you believe you can sell. Much also depends on the type of propagule: seed and vegetative varieties are handled differently in some countries -- America, for one.

In the case of seed propagated tomato varieties, in Canada you can register your variety with the Canadian Plant Breeders’ Right Office:

But the cost of variety protection is high, and the protection offered is not great. We suspect that the cost and the middling quality of protection have had something to do with the fact that few breeders are using PBR for seed-propagated vegetables. For example, in its history the PBRO has received only four applications for tomato varieties: two of which were abandoned, one is still in the approval process after three years, and only one variety registration has been granted. If protection is important, most seed companies instead rely on the inherent protection that hybridization affords (because the seeds of hybrids never come true). For conventional seed varieties the only other option in Canada is to market your variety under a trademark. This trademark strategy does not prevent anyone from growing and selling your variety under a different name; it only prevents them from selling your variety under the your trademark name.

PBRs are popular for varieties propagated vegetatively, especially those commonly grown in the floriculture industry.

In Canada for seeds there is also the Variety Registration Office, but this options only applies to certain agricultural crops such as wheat, rye and barley. Strangely, potatoes can be registered this route but not tomatoes. For more information on the Canadian VRO:

In the United States, the situation is different. The U.S. Patent Office offers plant patents which are used mainly for vegetatively propagated varieties like the Plant Breeders’ Rights registration in Canada. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Variety Protection Office offers protection of seed and tuber varieties.

We have felt for a long time that plant variety protection is in sore need of an overhaul. Why is that authors and musicians get the strong protection that copyright law confers, for almost no cost, while breeders (and inventors and designers) must make do with inadequate, and expensive, options that are largely limited to one country? There is little doubt that plant variety protection laws are deeply flawed, and those flaws are seriously limiting creativity in the plant breeding world.

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