Sweeping changes proposed for Canadian seed industry

The Canadian Seed Growers Association is proposing what amounts to a complete overhaul of Canada’s pedigreed seed system.

In mid-November, the CSGA in consultation with other seed industry groups, published a document outlining the elements of a proposed new seed system that encourages innovation and investment, simplifies regulatory requirements for new seed products, creates new value for the seed sector and promotes the use of certified seed.

The document, entitled the Green Paper on The Next Generation Seed System (PDF), was the first phase of an industry-led seed system review known as the Seed Synergy Collaboration.

Glyn Chancy, executive director of the CSGA, said the next step in the process is to seek feedback from provincial seed growers groups and other seed industry stakeholders.

Based on feedback that’s received, a second paper — the Seed Synergy White Paper — will be published in early 2018 articulating the CSGA’s vision in greater detail.

The green paper was the result of a three-year process that involved the CSGA, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada, the Canadian Plant Technology Agency and CropLife Canada.

“The goal of the Seed Synergy Collaboration is to develop and articulate a broadly supported vision for the next generation seed system,” the CSGA stated on its website.

“It is hoped that this vision can serve as a starting point for industry and government to begin to work together to enact real change in order to build an industry-led, government-enabled seed system that drives innovation and growth throughout the value chain, and which has direct benefits for seed professionals.”

Chancey said the green paper is accurately described as a starting point for wider discussions on how Canada’s seed system can be revamped and improved.

One of the cornerstone principles in the paper is the suggestion that Canada’s seed industry needs to speak with a more unified voice in order to promote the sector’s common interests.

To that end, the CSGA and CSTA have already begun holding their annual general meetings at the same time and the same location each summer, an arrangement that allows for greater co-operation and consensus building among two of the country’s largest seed industry organizations.

“To a certain extent, because the seed industry did not have one voice … I think we’ve fallen behind,” Chancey said.

Other cornerstone pieces in the green paper include the creation of more value for the Canadian seed industry through expanded certified seed use, a greater leadership role for industry and potential changes that remove hurdles to varietal development, the commercialization of new seed varieties and the use of new seed breeding technologies.

Regulatory issues pertaining to plants with novel traits should also be reviewed, the paper suggests.

Ideally, a revamped Canadian seed system would give private sector interests a greater leadership role in managing and operating the sector.

Government would continue to play a role as a facilitator or enabler, Chancey added.

“The most important proposition … is that we want to reinvigorate and inject energy back into the seed system by assuming more leadership,” he said.

“(That said), we feel that when that white paper goes forward (in the spring of 2018), it needs to reflect not just the views of the seed industry or the views of the rest of the ag sector but also some preliminary feedback from government.”

Among other things, the green paper suggests that Canada would benefit from:

  • A more streamlined regulatory system that promotes investment in varietal and seed trait development.
  • A centralized seed sale listing system to facilitate certified seed sales and allow for better protection of intellectual properties.
  • New measures that ensure the quality and purity of pedigreed seed produced in Canada, including a potential revamp of third-party seed crop inspections.
  • Steps aimed at promoting the sale and use of pedigreed seed and discouraging the undocumented or unregulated use of common seed.
  • A new framework for testing, registering and recommending new lines for registration.
  • A greater level of co-operation and co-ordination between various seed industry groups, possibly culminating in a new governance structure that covers all aspects of the Canadian pedigreed seed industry. w

Chancey said the timelines for implementing changes have yet to be determined.

“We recognize that whatever we come up with (in the white paper) could potentially require many years to implement fully.”

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