The Next-Generation Seed System

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The CSGA and CSTA are two of six associations working to revamp how the industry functions.

If the seed regulatory system were an ocean, the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project can be thought of as a ship built to navigate that vast and sometimes perilous sea.

Aboard that ship are members of all six associations that make up the seed industry — the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI), Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA), CropLife Canada, Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), and the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA).

The project is currently developing a proposal for an industry-led and government enabled “Next Generation Seed System” in which competition encourages choice for producers and supports seed quality, while maintaining the commitment to safety that has always been inherent to the seed system in Canada.

Glyn Chancey

For CSGA executive director Glyn Chancey, the Government of Canada’s decision to support the creation of the CSGA in 1904 laid the foundation for the “industry led, government-enabled seed system” vision underpinning Seed Synergy, which seeks to develop a next-generation seed system for the country.

“The problem was we didn’t update our vision back then for how the seed regulatory system was going to evolve. While CSGA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and CSI have managed well to sustain and improve the current system, the seed industry has long needed a new vision, new investment and possibly new institutions to support its goals.”

That vision is taking form, and discussions on what industry would like a next-generation seed regulatory system to look like are ongoing. In this regard, some important conversations took place at the CSGA’s annual meeting in Halifax, N.S., back in July, where a broad cross-section of industry stakeholders met to hear a progress report and provide feedback on work to that point.

“As it broadens its basis of support, the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project is showing its potential to build consensus across industry and government for a more market-driven and industry-led seed regulatory system,” Chancey says. “In this context, CSGA sees an opportunity to contribute more fully and do so in partnership with others. We’re changing, but in a way that will remind people of the importance of what it is we do.”

The Seed Synergy project kicked into full gear after a series of annual meetings in 2016, at which the boards of all six associations gathered to discuss the project and how to move forward.

It will culminate in a series of recommendations that will be provided to the CFIA for the end of 2018, a tentative date set in March when the CFIA announced it is opening up Canada’s Seeds Regulations for review in order to “reduce overlap and redundancy, increase responsiveness to industry changes, address gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies, and provide clarity and flexibility to affected regulated parties for seeds imported, conditioned, stored, tested, labelled, exported and sold in Canada.”

Dave Carey, who took the reins on July 7 as the CSTA’s new executive director, says Seed Synergy is a key priority for him in his new role. Prior to assuming his new role, Carey was CSTA’s government affairs and policy director.

“We need to provide increased value to the membership as we head down the Seed Synergy path and be an important voice in the discussion,” he says.

Dave Carey

Carey takes over the executive director role from Crosby Devitt, who was a big proponent of the Seed Synergy initiative. Prior to leaving CSTA to serve as vice-president of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, Devitt said the project allows CSTA to “create its future” and reach out to other associations and figure out how to better work together.

Carey agrees, but emphasizes the importance of CSTA moving forward as an independent entity while the Seed Synergy discussion goes on.

“Our first priority will continue to be our members. I think Seed Synergy will ultimately provide benefits to our members, but in the meantime CSTA still has a lot of our core work to do.”

The six associations involved in Seed Synergy are realizing there’s a convergence of many issues — communication, public trust, the need to have an influence over the industry’s future and the need for an efficient regulatory system.