Seed Summit 2022 Offers Key Chance to Determine Seed Sector Future

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Business, Industry News

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

Partners of Seed Summit 2022 cite the need for an efficient regulatory system, member education as major reasons for helping organize the upcoming virtual event.

Producer and commodity groups say an upcoming seed summit will be a crucial step toward modernizing Canada’s seed regulatory landscape to ensure a strong future for Canadian seed.

Seed Summit 2022 will take place as a virtual event happening as three single-day sessions over the course of a three-week period. Organizers are welcoming all stakeholders and users of seed to join the sessions on Feb. 7, 14, and 23.

Although it was initiated by Seeds Canada, a number of groups have come on board to make the summit a reality — Cereals Canada, Canola Council of Canada, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Horticultural Council, Western Canadian Wheat Growers, Soy Canada, Grains Farmers of Ontario, and the Ontario Agri-Business Association and the Western Grain Elevator Association.

The results of the discussions will be made available to policymakers to help inform the Seed Regulatory Modernization (SRM) process that is currently ongoing and being spearheaded by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

“The seed regulatory framework plays a significant part in shaping our industry. We want to use the discussion that’s going to take place at the summit as another source of valuable input into the seed regulatory modernization process that the CFIA is leading,” says Chris Davison, vice-president of stakeholder and industry relations for the Canola Council of Canada.

Gunter Jochum, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers, says a lot is riding on the outcome of the SRM process and members want to ensure they’re involved in the discussions.

“There’s a lot at stake. Farmers use seed every year, and without it we wouldn’t have a livelihood. It’s a very important part of what we do. Without it, farmers are not in business,” says Gunter Jochum, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

“This summit gives farmers and everybody along the value chain of seed production and seed  usage an opportunity to be at the table to look at what’s needed for good seed production, for seed regulation, how we compare to other countries and what our customers are actually looking for in the end product.”

That latter piece is crucial, says Dean Dias, CEO of summit partner Cereals Canada. He notes Canada’s cereals sector is set to be a key player in future growth, as it leads the country’s agriculture exports with annual exports to over 70 countries, with an estimated value of $8.5 billion.

“We want to make sure that that the seed sector is properly modernized and given enough flexibility so we can bring in new tools and technologies for future growth,” he says.

“The way we market cereals has changed, and customers want to know what type of varieties we are growing and what type of technologies was used to breed them. We need to provide transparency and timely information to them, and the more efficient our regulatory system is, the better.”

Cereals Canada’s members need nimble market access to be successful, he says, and that’s a challenge when countries with more agile regulatory frameworks have an advantage.

“Market access is something that needs to be constantly maintained, and that requires an efficient, flexible regulatory system. When we’re talking about seed, we want to make sure that the years to come are successful ones for Canada. The best way to ensure our success is to have a modern regulatory system.”

Davison notes that close to 70 per cent of global seed exports of canola and rapeseed come from Canada, making that modern regulatory system all the more important.

“The system needs to facilitate trade, market access and encourage continued innovation and investment in Canadian canola production, and that is going to benefit producers and the entire value chain.”

Seed Summit a Learning Opportunity

Part of crafting a better regulatory system, of course, is educating others on how the current system works, its strengths, but also where its weak points are. Dias notes the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations in Canada were originally established in 1905, and the last major revision was completed in 1996.

Although the SRM process is ongoing with a number of task teams having been formed to guide the process, unless you have a full understanding of the regulatory system and how it works, it can be difficult to have a productive conversation that results in significant change, says Russel Hurst, executive director of the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA).

“Regulatory modernization is a bit like inside baseball, in a way. Unless you live in that world every day, often people aren’t aware of what needs to change, or even what is in our control to change. If you’re not equipped to have the conversation as an individual or even as an association, you need to do some learning to be able to say, ‘OK, now I understand the landscape and I can see where the opportunities for change are.”

Hurst recalls the neonicotinoid debate in Ontario back in 2014, when the provincial government sets a goal to reduce neonicotinoid use by 80 per cent.

“Most of the time, our members’ major concerns are labour issues, and how to deal with escalating costs of business and supply chain disruptions, carbon taxation, those kinds of things. But if we go back eight years to the neonicotinoid controversy, all of a sudden, our members were very interested in seed because that whole debate impacted their business and their ability to sell certain technology,” he says.

“It took months to educate the value chain on how those regulations worked and how they impacted people. As a trade association, one of our roles is to be a half-step ahead of our members and say, ‘This is really important for you to be aware of and to be involved in.’”

David Jones agrees. The potato industry coordination manager for the Canadian Horticultural Council says the summit will be a valuable education tool for those working in the vegetable seed sector.

“Vegetable seed is very different from other areas of the seed value chain. We’re interested in the quality of imported seed and the new varieties that are coming along, and how we can make sure we have fast and efficient access to those. We don’t have a domestic vegetable seed industry, so we’re looking at a unique scenario as far as regulatory modernization goes. It’s crucial for our members to have that awareness around the SRM process, and then to have the opportunity to comment or provide input on things that perhaps aren’t working well for them, or things that are working well for them,” Jones says.

The summit will also be an opportunity to provide feedback to organizers which will help inform SRM discussions, which is a feature of the event that Grain Farmers of Ontario VP of Strategic Development Paul Hoekstra looks forward to.

“We’re very interested to hear what other producers are saying in other parts of the country when it comes to their cropping systems and the challenges that they experience. I think that’s going to be a really great opportunity for farmers across Canada to listen and to share information,” he says.

“The seed regulatory system is very complex, and we want to ensure it works as best as possible for everyone.”

To register for the event visit seedsummit.ca.

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