Seed group merger seen as multinational power grab

Large multinationals are counting on seed and commercial growers to skim headlines and overlook the major changes being proposed for their industry.

The proponents of Seed Synergy (a merger between Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA), Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), Canadian Seed Institute (CSI), Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA) into a new Seeds Canada organization), were encouraged to see a mere 90 seed growers out of about 3,300 on the virtual CSGA annual general meeting held July 7.

Apparently, there has been buy-in to the one-sided propaganda that the proposed changes will solve many issues.

But the fine print is evident. This is a pro-multinational proposal.

Under the proposed changes, multinational proponents stand to gain even more profit at the expense of the seed grower and commercial producer. Think about what happened with canola.

The multinationals already have their hands in farmers’ pockets with cereal and pulse production and the grain trade, but largely haven’t cracked into the seed market. So why not insert themselves at the front end?

Governance on the proposed merged Seeds Canada organization will be stacked against the seed grower. Only one board seat is guaranteed for a seed grower out of 15, yet seed growers are the most numerous in the seed industry.

When pressed on this issue, proponents of the merger say that seed growers merely have to vote in a representative for each region, at each voting cycle, to have a majority at the table, but they know complacency is inevitable. Additionally, a board-appointed nomination committee would be able to subjectively screen those who run for a seat on the board. In the end, seed growers would only be able to vote for board-approved candidates.

If all of this wasn’t enough, votes will have to be bought at a higher membership level, with lower levels having no voting rights.

All of these measures have been baked in as tools towards minimization of seed growers.

Make no mistake; Seed Synergy and the attempted devaluing of the public breeding institutions and CGC are also being pushed by the same people to minimize the grower voice by reducing board representation, by removing impartial grain grading, by increasing seed costs, through proposed “end-point royalties” (fees on every tonne of delivered grain), and through farm-saved seed variety-use agreements.

If these schemes are not voted down, it will be the beginning of the end of a successful return-on-investment public breeding system. It will also bring on the extinction of independent seed growers, the end of public/farmer-interest quality control, and a move to hand big business corporations ownership of the seeds that farmers depend on.

Growers need to reject the proposals, then make a strong move to retain majority input into the varieties that are bred through public institutions. Growers must also gain the ability to direct funds back to these public breeding institutions, retain a voting majority on grower-represented boards, and retain control of on-farm seed use.

Show up online at and vote using your CSGA-mailed voting card by Aug. 26 or during the special general meeting Aug 27.

Lyndon Stoll is a seed grower in west-central Saskatchewan and a professional agrologist.

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