Seed groups continue merger talks

It’s thought that a unified group could work together to attract new investment into the plant breeding sector

MONTREAL — Two of Canada’s largest seed organizations are continuing to explore the benefits of forming a single group.

Merger talks involving the Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA) and the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) dominated the agenda when the two organizations held their annual general meetings in Montreal earlier this month.

Other seed-related organizations that have expressed an interest in joining a single, all-encompassing Canadian seed organization include the Canadian Plant Technology Agency, the Canadian Seed Institute and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada.

The amalgamation of seed organizations has been a topic of discussion for more than two years, and support for the plan appears to be gaining momentum.

“The federal government has signalled the opportunity to advance agriculture and the Canadian economy, and seed is the starting point for that,” said SeCan’s Todd Hyra, who was recently named CSTA president.

“This is the time to take advantage of new technologies that are available and take advantage of government willingness to re-align our (seed) system.”

Hyra said a revamped Canadian seed sector that is managed through a unified, national organization has the potential to eliminate duplication, streamline operations, increase efficiencies and set the Canadian seed sector on a new path that benefits all stakeholders, including primary producers.

A unified group could work together to attract new investment into plant breeding.

It would also allow the seed industry to speak with one voice on important issues such as the regulatory approval process, varietal registration and the use of new technologies in seed breeding and varietal development.

Outgoing CSGA president Kevin Runnalls offered a similar view, suggesting the organizations should explore their options and look for ways to improve the Canadian seed sector and add value to Canada’s agricultural economy as a whole.

Discussions related to the formation of a single seed-related entity began more than two years ago.

Since then, groups involved in the process have reached consensus on high-level issues and foundational principles, said Hyra.

But much work remains to be done, he added.

“This is an important time of change in the seed industry and there’s a great opportunity for us to share ideas and build a better industry,” he said.

“But every decision that has been made to date still needs a lot more work. There’s a lot more that needs to be done to keep this project moving forward.”

The concept of building a single seed industry body was outlined in a Seed Synergy Green Paper published last fall. It was the first phase of the process.

The next step is to dig deeper into issues such as governance, membership, funding and the development of new systems that facilitate innovation and investment and allow member groups to access relevant information more easily through new digital platforms.

Another key element of the plan is to create new revenue for the seed sector and promote certified seed.

Glyn Chancey, CSGA executive director, said the green paper is accurately described as a starting point for wider discussions on how Canada’s seed system can be improved.

Based on feedback received on that document, a second paper — the Seed Synergy White Paper — will be published in the coming months.

The white paper will articulate the vision of Seed Synergy organizations in greater detail.

“The goal of the Seed Synergy collaboration is to develop and articulate a broadly supported vision for the next generation seed system,” the CSGA states 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.”

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

Government would continue to play a role as a facilitator or enabler, he 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, 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.”

Proponents of the new seed organization say they would like to have a decision finalized by early 2020, in time for a federal seed review.

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