Doug Miller of CSGA Submits to Some Spicy Questions in a Spicy Webinar

by | Apr 10, 2024 | Policy

The executive director of the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association sat down with Seed World Canada’s Marc Zienkiewicz to make the case for CSGA’s Seed Regulatory Modernization vision.

It was a display of wit, regulatory knowledge and taste buds on Seed World Canada’s April 9 webinar when Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) Executive Director Doug Miller and Seed World Canada Editor Marc Zienkiewicz sat down to munch on increasingly hotter chicken wings and take on increasingly spicier questions related to CSGA’s vision for Seed Regulatory Modernization.

Starting with a relatively mild hot sauce, the webinar kicked off with a question regarding CSGA’s current staffing levels and whether they’d be enough to take on CSGA’s ambitious vision, which would see it take over seed certification duties for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and build a digital end-to-end single window system for certification.

CSGA currently has a staff of 14 people, according to its website.

“I want to emphasize the crucial role we play despite being a small organization. Our strength lies in grassroots participation, a tradition we’ve upheld for over a century. There might be some misconceptions about who we are; we’re not merely another industry association. We are Canada’s national seed crop certification authority, co-regulated with the Government of Canada,” Miller said.

“Despite our modest size, we’ve consistently exceeded expectations. A prime example is the transformation we initiated back in 2012 with alternative service delivery, revolutionizing how seed crops are certified in Canada, reducing certification decisions from weeks to hours with our digital system.”

Miller went on to say CSGA would be exploring new revenue streams in order to help cover costs incurred in its overall SRM vision.

“To ensure sustainable budgets and operational efficiency, we’re exploring non-traditional revenue streams, such as CSGA programs, health initiatives, and consulting services. This diversified approach mitigates the need to excessively burden the seed sector financially,” he said.

As the webinar went on, things got spicier: responding to concerns about a single stakeholder group taking on seed certification duties in Canada, Miller said as a co-regulator, it’s important to clarify that CSGA’s objective isn’t about any single stakeholder group seizing control of the sector.

“This notion wouldn’t align with our ethos. With 120 years of history behind us, we’ve earned trust as a service provider through our regulatory function. It’s crucial to understand that we operate under delegated authority rather than as an alternative service provider,” he said.

“Looking ahead, our focus is on evolving the current system, not revolutionizing it. We envision a simpler seed certification process, enhanced by digital tools. From our perspective and from the feedback we’ve received, CSGA appears to be the most suitable candidate to lead this modernization effort. With our competent staff and existing digital infrastructure, we’re well-positioned to drive this change.”

In answering a final audience question regarding CSGA keeping standards setting within its own governance, Miller said setting standards involves the entire value chain coming together for extensive consultations, and this would remain so.

“Let me clarify a couple of crucial points about CSGA. First and foremost, we’re not an alternative service delivery agent, nor are we an inspection service like Seeds Canada, formerly known as CSI. It’s essential to understand this distinction because we operate as a co-regulator with the Government of Canada. These nuances are vital because any misunderstanding about our role can lead to misinformation and flawed perceptions. So, let’s dispel any notions suggesting otherwise,” he said.

Contrary to popular belief, he said seed certification standards are not “crafted solely by a group of seed growers donning decoder rings and tinfoil hats.”

“In reality, setting CSGA standards involves the entire value chain coming together for extensive consultations. It’s a collaborative effort that includes seed companies, crop inspectors, and various stakeholders across the industry. To suggest otherwise is a significant misrepresentation of the process. Our recent consultations saw participation from a wide array of stakeholders, including almost every seed company and crop inspector. It was a testament to the unity and collective effort within our industry, a glimpse into the future where we come together to shape the direction of seed certification.”

Don’t have time to watch the whole webinar? Read our recap!

To take part in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Winter SRM survey go here.

To read the CSGA’s responses to the survey questions visit their website.


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