The Scoop on Seed Synergy

by | Dec 3, 2018 | Business, Industry News

An attempt to forge a next-generation seed system for Canada is gaining speed. Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening.

Canada’s seed industry has come together under the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project banner to collectively envision what a next-generation seed system in Canada could look like.

The project’s goal: develop recommendations and implementation plans that will enable a next-generation seed system. This system is meant to be a reformed, industry-led, government-enabled seed system that effectively attracts investment from businesses both large and small, fosters innovation, and delivers new and tailored seed traits to customers efficiently.

In Montreal, Quebec, in July, a Seed Synergy information session was hosted jointly by the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) and the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) to update members and get feedback on where the project is heading

A huge theme of Seed Synergy is the idea of a Single Window through which anyone and everyone involved in Canadian seed can access information.

At the same time, the goal of Seed Synergy is to propose a next-generation seed system to the federal government — in the form of a white paper anticipated this fall — in time for the government’s planned opening of the Seeds Act scheduled for 2020. It is this “window of opportunity” that the Seed Synergy partners seek to take advantage of.

4 Main Areas

The Seed Synergy partners have been focused on the whole system but in particular the potential impacts of:

  1. Streamlining member services into a “Single Window” — Acustomer service oriented means of providing information and conducting business with seed industry stakeholders.
  2. Enabling plant breeding innovation — Proposed is the idea of an industry-wide coalition that, in effect, would remove any unnecessary complexities resulting from the existence of three separate review offices which assess the food, feed and environmental safety of crops in Canada.
  3. Stimulating innovation and value creation — Following an extensive process through workshops, working groups and a task force of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Grains Roundtable two proposed models for value creation in cereals were tabled last fall: Producer-Facilitated Royalty Collection, also known as an End Point Royalty; and Royalty Collection Enabled via Contract, known as a Trailing Royalty. The CSTA Intellectual Property Committee voted at its annual meeting in Montreal in July to support the Trailing Royalty option. The federal government has announced public consultations will be held in November to discuss Plant Breeders’ Right changes that would be needed to support a value creation funding model.
  4. Next-generation traceability and seed certification framework — Seed Synergy proposes a public-private partnership with CFIA having overall responsibility for a modernized and streamlined version of the regulations, for enforcement, for monitoring and for international trade.

Is a Merger Possible?

The boards of our five dedicated seed associations — CSTA, CSGA, Canadian Seed Institute (CSI), Commercial Seed Analysts’ Association of Canada (CSAAC) and the Canadian Plant Technology Agency — have given preliminary direction to explore a possible merger of those organizations, in addition to a formal alignment with CropLife Canada modelled on the existing CropLife Canada-CSTA Memorandum of Understanding.

The intent is to create a streamlined model for information management, advocacy, service provision and provide greater value for the industry’s collective members, and — most importantly — to amplify the impact of the various complementary functions within the Synergy organizations.

The temporary “placeholder” name Seeds Canada is being used to reference this hypothetical single organization.

As a precursor to a possible merger of these five groups, CSI and CSAAC have indicated they’re looking at exploring a “pre-emptive” merger themselves.

Opinions from Wild Rose Country

Ron Markert

CSGA Board Member and President, Markert Seeds

On Reaching the Goal of a merger by 2020: “We knew things would be slow, but when you try and bring six organizations together, things take time. You have to remember this is solely exploration. We’re simply looking at the possibility of merging. We’re not saying this is what we’re going to do. With CropLife Canada being a part of it — but at the same time not being a part of it — we’ll see how it plays out. We’re on the tip of the iceberg now to see if we’re all on the same page and want to work together. Everyone wants to do it fast. I agree with doing it as fast as we can, but it takes time to talk to everyone and get their opinions.”

On the Interworkings of the Oversight Committee: “We’ve only had five one-hour conference calls. Each one is only an hour long. We’ve only met face-to-face twice. It’s proving to be a challenge to get everyone in the same page. One of the big issues is trust. We have to learn to do that, and it won’t happen overnight. One of the challenges we have at CSGA is the fact we have 3,500 members. We have a lot of people to communicate with before we can make a decision. For us that’s a year-long process. 2019 is the earliest anything can even be decided.”

Morgan Webb

President, Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada and Owner, SeedCheck Technologies Inc.

On CropLife Canada Staying Independent in the Event of a Merger: “It’s not that CropLife is staying on the outside, they’re very much still a partner on the inside. They simply have more interests than just seed.”

On What he Expects from the White Paper Slated for this Fall: “The green paper did a lot to explore various possibilities but didn’t have a lot of detail and wasn’t vetted by each organization’s members like the white paper will be. Once we get further into detail, you’ll see everyone around the table really having a great discussion.”