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SRM – The Model for Governance in Canada’s Seeds System Needs Repair  

Canada is known as a nation for our vast agricultural landscapes and advancements in farming practices with a seed certification system we self-describe as a model to emulate. But there is delusion in how we describe our seed system, and I am losing faith that our regulatory modernization process will address a fundamental issue. Lying beneath the surface of our seemingly robust seed framework is a broken governance structure in dire need of repair.  

 

Over the past few years, seed industry stakeholders alongside producer groups have worked with CFIA to review and discuss issues with our current Seeds Regulations and our seed standards.  Most of the work we have done has been an exercise in updating and maintenance. The discussions about how we can modernize our seed system, such as our conversations regarding the use of incorporation by reference as a tool to help make our regulatory system more responsive, have been few. But in all our discussions the SRM Working Group and CFIA have not contemplated and resolved a path forward to repair the antiquated, inequitable governance structure of our current seed system. Since CFIA did not share this major shortcoming with the task teams before the work of the task teams started, the task teams have made several uninformed recommendations. Now we see this issue manifested in the current (winter 2024) CFIA stakeholder consultation survey.  

 

The model for governance for our current seed system was established about 120 years ago – yes, 120 years ago – when our parliament passed the Seed Control Act of 1905 and around that same time the government delegated the responsibility of setting our seed crop production standards to CSGA. This was an incredible part of our history and orchestrated by a visionary group of seed growers, scientists, and government officials. But that was an appropriate solution for a time in our history when the only stakeholders in the seed industry were farmers who were producing and selling seed. With 120 years of evolution in the seed industry, consider the diversity of the stakeholders in our seed industry today:  seed labs and seed analysts, registered seed establishments and their personnel, seed growers, plant breeders, seed brokers, seed distributors, seed retailers, seed-applied technology companies, seed equipment companies, ASCIS and crop inspectors, producers, and producer groups. Despite this vast group of people and organizations with a stake in seed today, only one stakeholder group beyond is party to our current model of governance – the model established 120 years ago.      

 

This was on the minds of our SRM Working Group members when they asked CFIA to conduct a benchmarking exercise of the seed certification systems in other countries. In early 2023, CFIA commissioned JRG Consulting Group to examine seed systems in other countries to gain a comprehensive understanding of how those systems operate and to assess their effectiveness.  With feedback from the SRM Working Group members, CFIA selected six countries for the study: the United States, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU), and Uruguay. One of the undeniable findings from this benchmarking study was that while each system has unique features, in most cases the seed value chain is responsible for coordinating their seed system. From his interview with John Groenewegen from JRG Consulting Group, Marc Zienkewicz reported in his SeedWorld article in August of 2023 that, “This collaborative approach, where industry bodies identify changes and drive consensus, empowers the seed systems to adapt quickly while maintaining compliance with international standards.” No surprise. John Groenewegen’s findings are consistent with my years of experience delivering compliance services in multiple certification schemes:  seed certification, food safety certification, organic certification, and sustainability verification. At the apex of any scheme (seed, sustainability, organic, food safety…) is a governance body responsible for overall strategic direction, policy formulation, and decision-making. This governance body encompasses representatives from all key stakeholders.  

 

To modernize Canada’s seed system and correct the inequity in the outdated governance model, I can easily envision a responsible body, at the apex of our seed system, made up of Canada’s seed industry stakeholders, industry associations, audit/inspection/certification bodies, producer groups, relevant experts, and government representatives with the mandate to advise the government on strategic direction and policy formation, and make recommendations on changes to standards and regulations.  This in essence is the ISSB concept, and why we see it as an important concept for the future of our seed and grain industries. 

Roy van Wyk is the Director of Client and Intellectual Property Services for Seeds Canada and the Industry Co-chair for the CFIA’s Seed Regulatory Modernisation Working Group. Roy has 27 years’ experience in the seed industryHe began his seed industry career in the late 1990s with Advantage Seed Growers and Processor, initially coordinating variety procurement, but within a year or two became General Manager4 years later he was hired by Hensall Co-op to manage their seed department. He managed the production and procurement of seed to meet Hensall’s many commercial production contracts for food grade soybeans and edible beansIn 2001, he moved to the Ottawa Valley. He joined the Canadian Seed Growers’ AssociationHe worked for the CSGA for 10 years, notably leading the work on the original e-pilot for certifying seed crops. In 2011, Roy accepted the role of Executive Director of the Canadian Seed Institute, which became Seeds Canada in 2021. Today, Roy continues to lead Seeds Canada’s client services, which include the ongoing oversight of more than 950 registered seed companies and accredited seed testing laboratories. His passion for agriculture and the seed industry, and his desire to help make a positive difference, is a genuine one.   

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Seeds Canada’s Response to the CFIA Survey Questions

Seed Regulatory Modernization (SRM) was framed as the opportunity for the Canadian agriculture sector to modernize seed regulations and enable the seed sector to better deliver the commercial seed products that farmers and grain markets need for future success. Seeds Canada, the national seed value chain organization, has been consulting members and stakeholders since before the SRM consultation window even opened, in an attempt to accurately convey the needs of the sector and represent the diversity of operations, as well as to streamline legislation so that cost of regulation is proportional to mitigated risk, while striving to find a mechanism for more timely and less resource intensive updates in the future.

Seeds Canada is the voice of the Canadian seed sector, representing seed growers, analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, retailers, service providers and all stakeholders along the seed value chain from coast to coast. Our mandate is to support the growth of the seed sector in Canada and worldwide, for the benefit of thriving food systems, sustainable environments, and successful businesses. Delivering innovation is our members’ job. To be successful at that, the cost of delivering quality seed must be kept as low as possible. Farmers know what they need from the seed system with regards to testing and information, and they know there is a point of optimization where steps taken beyond this point do not pay for themselves. At the end of the day, all costs are passed on to the farmer- the price taker- and the seed sector takes this seriously. If farmers are successful, so are we. Of course, the opposite is true as well.

The CFIA’s Winter 2024 Seed Regulatory Modernization Consultation (excluding seed potatoes) opened for feedback on February 9. This online survey covers Seed Regulatory Modernization (SRM) task team topics: variety registration, seed testing, common seed, and seed exports and imports. It also covers alternative proposals that were submitted through the SRM Working Group. Through extensive consultation with members and stakeholders, Seeds Canada has developed responses to the CFIA survey question. On Tuesday, members will receive Seeds Canada’s organizational survey responses, which they can adapt to their own submissions.

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While some are on the “hot seat,” Seeds Canada is cool-headed and consults with the sector

While some prepare to be in the “hot seat” eating hot snacks Seeds Canada has been busy and cool-headed, consulting and listening to our value chain members and stakeholders on what we consider a serious issue with costly implications for the seed sector and farmers. 

Seeds Canada welcomes venues that provide the opportunity to ask hard questions and thoughtfully and professionally respond to questions and opinions about this critical and serious issue. We remain committed to ensuring that the sector’s needs and the diversity of its operations are accurately represented.

Seeds Canada approached SRM with an eye on the cost of regulation and ensuring that regulation allows for the existence of diverse operations.  In the spirit of embracing the diversity of Canadian cropping systems, Seeds Canada initially proposed the concept of an ISSB – an independent standards-setting body. After consulting with members and stakeholders, this concept has evolved to become an independent, inclusive, and broader-scope industry advisory body.

Seeds Canada envisions an advisory body that would address all aspects of seed regulation and policy, from seed developers to end users, including farmers. This group would be a source of industry-specific feedback to the CFIA on regulations and policies in place. They would provide feedback on regulatory services contracted out to alternative service providers and recommend changes to standards set under the Seed Regulations, including standards for seed crop certification, which the CSGA has the authority to set under a century-old agreement.

Seeds Canada has received support from members and stakeholders for the concept of an independent advisory body, as well as interest from policymakers. We have engaged an independent consultant with knowledge of the entire value chain, to develop the concept further, including research into similar bodies in other regulatory areas and their success.

Seeds Canada held an initial member engagement session on March 4, during which members were invited to discuss the survey and provide comments. Following the engagement session, additional one-on-one outreach was conducted with members. Based on this initial member feedback, we have developed some draft recommended responses to facilitate further consultation. We are holding a second virtual member engagement session on March 28. We will use the feedback to inform our final recommendations, which will be made public and used to inform Seeds Canada’s organizational submission.

Seeds Canada is looking forward to sharing our responses to CFIA’s second winter survey in April.

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Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the Canadian seed sector, representing seed growers, analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, retailers, service providers and all stakeholders along the seed value chain. Our mandate is to support the growth of the seed sector in Canada and worldwide, focusing on plant breeding innovation, seed regulatory modernization, international trade, value creation, and plant breeders’ rights.

Media Contact:

For media inquiries, please contact Lise Newton, Director of Communications and Government Relations and Lauren Comin, Director of Policy.

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Announcing the winners of the Marie-Greeniaus-Award 2020

Ottawa – Seeds Canada is pleased to announce the 2020 Marie Greeniaus Outstanding Achievement Award winners. “On behalf of Seeds Canada, I’d like to congratulate Chantal Lecavalier of Sollio Agriculture and Morgan Webb of Seed Check Technologies Inc., who have been awarded the 2020 Marie Greeniaus Outstanding Achievement Award,” said Lorne Hadley, Director of Member Relations.

The CSAAC Outstanding Achievement Award was established in 2005 to recognize seed analyst members who have made a significant contribution to the professionalism of seed science, seed testing, education, leadership, research, and the growth of the seed industry community. The award is fondly remembered as the Marie Greeniaus Outstanding Achievement Award after being renamed in 2006. 

“The planned announcement of the winners of the Marie Greeniaus Outstanding Achievement Award in 2020 did not take place due to the pandemic, so to rectify this, we are making the announcement today. We also look forward to honouring them during our Vitual Semi-Annual meeting on November 20, 2023,” Hadley added. 

About the winners

Chantal Lecavalier: Chantal is a dedicated team player passionate about performance and agriculture. Chantal has been with Sollio Agriculture for 35 years. As Seed Quality Manager, she manages the seed laboratory, customer service and network operations. Her colleagues recognize her for her strong sense of rigour, ambition, and human touch.

Over the years, Chantal has gained a wealth of experience in the seed sector. She gained this experience being a seed analyst, seed grader, seed importer, and an auditor for Seeds Canada’s RSE program. 

She has also served on numerous committees, including the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), of which she was the most recent President. Chantal is a leader in the Quebec seed industry and has a long history of advocacy for analysts and the seed industry. She was instrumental in creating a Quebec regional position on the CSAAC board and ensuring that French seed analysts were involved in the association and the industry. Chantal is accredited by CFIA as an Operator of an Approved Conditioner and of an Authorized Importer. 

Through her many roles, Chantal has developed a broad understanding of the seed industry, including finance, management, import/export, laws, and regulations. She is a member of Seeds Canada’s Seed Testing and Quality Assurance Steering Committee. Chantal is recognized for her experience, expertise, and commitment to excellence in promoting and growing the seed sector in Canada.

Morgan Webb: Morgan grew up in a farming, agronomy, and botany family on a beef and dairy farm in the foothills of southern Alberta. He graduated with honours from Olds College with a major in Soil Resource Management. Morgan moved to Edmonton to work on Pioneer Hi-Bred Production’s canola breeding research trials. He later joined United Grain Growers’ seed lab as a winter diversion. Morgan was self-taught and became fully accredited seed analyst by the CFIA in 1995.

Morgan worked for 20/20 Seed Labs, becoming a Lab Manger during the eight years he worked there. In 2002 he was a founding member of Seed Check Technologies Inc. a fully accredited seed testing laboratory in Leduc, Alberta. Morgan has been an accredited seed grader, seed import conformance assessor (SICA) and a seed crop inspector for over 30 years. He has trained hundreds of seed graders at Seed Check and in conjunction with Seeds Canada and their new grader training program.

He has served on the board of the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC) for over 20 years in the roles of President, Western Director, member of the Examination Committee and the Referee and Research Committee. He has served on the ISST, CSI and Seed Grain Advisory Boards, as well as the CFIA, SRM Task Teams and CSGA.

Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the Canadian seed industry, representing seed producers, analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, retailers, service providers and all stakeholders along the seed value chain from coast to coast. Our mandate is to support the growth of the seed sector in Canada and globally, with a focus on plant breeding innovation, seed regulatory modernization, international trade, value creation and plant breeders’ rights.

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Contacts:

Lorne Hadley (English)

Lise Newton (French)

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Seeds Canada 2023 Annual Conference Recap

July 20, 2023 – This year’s Seeds Canada Annual Conference – held July 10-12 in St. John’s, Newfoundland – brought together seed analysts, developers, growers, processors, and distributors from across Canada under the theme Seed Innovation = Sustainability.

“Whether it be food supply gaps made more evident by the pandemic or climate events hitting us at increased frequency and severity, we have all been impacted by these disruptions. The unprecedented times have highlighted the critical role seed technology plays. I believe I speak on behalf of our members, leadership, and staff when I say we take our responsibility towards sustainable solutions seriously, which includes advocating for an enabling environment for innovation and timely access to technologies. The discussions held at this meeting – particularly those pertaining to sustainability and regulatory modernization – have been invaluable as we plan our work in the coming months,” said Seeds Canada President Ellen Sparry.

Sustainability was Front and Centre
The meeting featured Dr. Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, who provided an insightful keynote on the challenges of feeding the future sustainability and opportunities for Canada and the seed sector, noting the solution requires science and technology, as well as policy, education, and economic changes.

Prior to the meeting, Seeds Canada released its draft Sustainability Action Plan for consultation with members. Attendees were given an overview of the Action Plan, which identified four key efforts: Advocate for genetic innovation and seed’s contribution to sustainability; Be a catalyst, facilitator, and supporter of sustainability conversations and initiatives in the seed sector; Partner for impact; and, Develop resources to support members in adopting best practices for sustainable production and delivery of seed and seed technology.

The meeting also featured a panel, moderated by Seed World Group, with five industry leaders who spoke about what sustainability means to their operations and why it is important for our sector to get involved.

Following the panel, attendees took part in table discussions to solicit feedback on the Action Plan and help chart the course forward for Seeds Canada. Staff will work with the feedback to develop a “What We Heard” report and take the next steps on the Action Plan.

Sustainability Panel, L-R: Shawn Brook (Moderator, Seed World Group), Simon Ellis (Ellis Farm Supplies), Georges Chaussé (Sollio Agriculture), Ray Daniels (BASF North America), Karis Gutter (Corteva Agriscience North America), and Trevor Nysetvold (SGS Canada).

Spotlight on Innovation
This year, Germination and Seeds Canada partnered to launch the Innovation Showcase. A call was put out to organizations making strides in agriculture with technology development. The meeting featured presentations from the finalists: 20/20 Seeds Labs, Advanced Molecular and DNA Tests for Crop Threat Identification; Lucent Bio, Micronutrient Seed Coatings for Sustainable Crop Nutrition; and the Buhler Group, AI for Enhanced Seed Processing. The discussions were recorded for the Germination ‘Seed Speaks’ podcast and will be available shortly. More information about the applicants can be accessed here

Diversity and Inclusion for a Strengthened Workforce
Attendees also heard from Jennifer Wright, Executive Director of Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), who talked about changes to the workforce through a diversity and inclusion lens.  She noted that Canada is currently facing high job vacancies, historically low unemployment, and record retirement rates – and that much of the needed workforce will come from immigrants. She pointed to resources CAHRC has developed, including the Workforce Strategic Plan and an AgriHR toolkit with e-courses, available this Fall.

The meeting also featured recorded remarks from the Honourable Marie Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland. 

During the Annual General Meeting portion of the event, Seeds Canada’s CEO, Barry Senft provided an update on Seeds Canada’s initiatives, noting increased communications and engagement with members and clients as the organization’s focus for its second year of operation. As an example, Seeds Canada embarked on its first Winter Tour this year, meeting with over 60 members, clients, and stakeholders in five different provinces.

Seed Regulatory Modernization
Seeds Canada was pleased to welcome the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to its meeting, with remarks from CFIA President, Dr. Harpreet S. Kochhar and John Groenewegen who highlighted his findings from the CFIA-commissioned international benchmarking analysis of seed systems. Seeds Canada has long advocated for a bench marking report to be completed to inform the Seed Regulatory Modernization process. Learn more about Seeds Canada’s takeaways from the report here.  

Elected Leadership
This year also included Seeds Canada’s first Board of Director and Executive elections. Seeds Canada is happy to announce that Ellen Sparry (C&M Seeds) continues as President and Brent Collins (BASF) was elected as the new Vice-President. Thank you to all nominees for running, and congratulations to the newly elected Board members. 

“Our leadership has always gone above and beyond. I am confident this team will provide excellent direction to our organization. And as we like to say, ‘Let’s see what we can grow, together’. I’m looking forward to the advancements I know we will achieve in the coming year,” said Seeds Canada CEO, Barry Senft.

Seeds Canada would also like to express its sincere gratitude to the Board Members who will be retiring or stepping down, including Dianne Gilhuly (Kent Agri Lab), Georges Chaussé (Sollio Agriculture), Philippe Charlebois (Semican), and Quentin Martin (Cribit Seeds). Their expertise and contributions have greatly strengthened the organization.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in St. John’s, Newfoundland for our Annual Conference. In addition to the meetings, we trust participants enjoyed the warm Newfoundland hospitality with many partaking in whale watching, golfing, socializing, and of course, the customary Newfoundland screech-in ceremony.

Recordings and accompanying documentation will be uploaded to the Seeds Canada website in the coming days.

See you in Edmonton!
We are already looking forward to connect with members and partners next year at the 2024 Annual Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Mark your calendars – July 8-11 – and stay tuned for more information.

Thank You to All Meeting Sponsors!


Media Inquiries:
Director of Government Relations, Lise Newton

Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.

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2022-23 Year in Review: Seeds Canada Celebrates Two Years!

July 5, 2023 – Over the past year, we have continued to build a strong and progressive organization that represents the entire seed value chain and fosters strong relationships with policymakers. 

Within our second year of operation, one of the priorities focused on included increased communications and engagement with members and clients. We held our first in-person Annual Conference followed by a semi-annual meeting, launched a webinar series and monthly industry newsletter, introduced new platforms to support our membership, and embarked on our first national tour to engage with members, clients, and new stakeholders. We have been a leader in various policy files, including seed regulatory modernization, intellectual property protecting, and sustainability.  

We have developed our 2022-23 Year in Review as a resource to highlight the work being done by Seeds Canada. Click here to view the 2022-23 Year in Review 

As we look forward to 2023, we are committed to engaging with Seeds Canada members and clients across Canada. If you would like to know more about becoming a Seeds Canada member, please contact Lorne Hadley. If you would like to learn more about client services offered by Seeds Canada, please contact Roy VanWyk. If you have any questions regarding our 2022-23 Year in Review, please contact Lise Newton. 

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Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually. 

Media Inquiries: 

Director of Government Relations, Lise Newton

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Seeds Canada’s 2022 Semi-Annual Meeting Report

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2022 Semi-Annual Meeting in Ottawa this week. Were you not able to join us? No problem! Here is a recap of the meetings and discussions that took place. 

A Successful Opening Session
 
Members heard from Mr. Francis Drouin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for Ontario both who extended greetings to members and highlighted their support for Seeds Canada and how they are looking forward to working with Seeds Canada on our key issues.
 
Seeds Canada’s President Ellen Sparry, and Executive Director, Barry Senft, opened the first in-person Semi-Annual session with greetings and updates on Seeds Canada’s initiatives and what we have been up to since our Annual Meeting in July.
Congratulations Dr. Istvan Rajcan on receiving the 2021 CPBI Award!
Seed Regulatory Modernization Was Front and Centre This Week

Director of Policy, Lorne Hadley and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Lauren Comin, spoke at an SRM session followed by a Q&A session with members. They gave an SRM update and presented Seeds Canada’s position on task team findings. There was discussion surrounding seed certification, variety registration, and grade tables. 

Members heard the most recent updates on the CFIA SRM process, and how completed Task Team recommendations are aligning with Seeds Canada’s SRM policy principles and Functional Framework.

 
 
 
Members participated in an in-depth update on consultations on our Functional Framework and the ISSB (Seed Value Chain). Members also heard the feedback the Board has received from members and proposed next steps. There was a lively discussion and substantive feedback on the Framework and next steps. 
 
 
 
The Policy and Issues Committees Met

Intellectual Property Rights Policy & Issues Committee – Anthony Parker of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office joined us to review updates on Plant Breeders’ Rights and Variety Protection Files. Following, Seeds Canada’s Intellectual Property Services Manager, Mel Reekie, provided an update on the VUA platform.

Biotechnology Policy and Issues Committee – Jennifer Hubert, from Croplife Canada, presented on Plant Breeding Innovation policy progress and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Lauren Comin, provided an update on the Seeds Canada transparency database. 

Oilseeds, Pulses, & Western Cereals Policy & Issues Committee – Henry de Gooijer from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, discussed a benchmarking study on public plant breeding. Lauren Comin presented on the discontinuation of the prairie canola performance trials followed by a prerecorded video of Chris Vervaet of the Canadian Oilseed Processers Association speaking on the clean fuel policy. 

Corn, Soybeans, & Eastern Cereals Policy & Issues Committee – Heather Russell of the Atlantic Grains Council presented on their new corn seed checkoff in a pre-recorded video. Georges Chaussee, of Sollio Agriculture, spoke about pesticide policies in Quebec followed by Luis Luque of CropLife providing an update on their managing resistance grower contest.

 
Senator Rob Black Joined the Closing President’s Reception
To close off the first day, President Ellen Sparry, welcomed members to the President’s Reception. Guests heard greetings from Senator Rob Black, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
 
Roy van Wyk, Dave Lockman, and Mel Reekie, Seeds Canada’s Client Services, and Intellectual Property team, attended at the Semi-Annual Meeting where they met with members and clients. They answered questions on our client services, the VUA platform, IP services and more.
 
 
 
See you in Newfoundland!
We’re excited to connect with our members next year, at the 2023 Annual Meeting in St. John’s Newfoundland! The Annual Meeting will take place from July 10-12, 2023, at the Delta Hotels St. John’s Conference Centre. We will share more details in the New Year. 

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Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.

Media Inquiries:

Lise Newton
lnewton@seeds-canada.ca
343-777-3867

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The Spotlight is on Sustainability in the International Seed Sector

I had my first opportunity to attend International Seed Federation (ISF) interim meetings of the coordination groups at the beginning of November. The meetings were held in Rome, Italy, and this certainly wasn’t just for the numerous gelato shops, alone (although this did influence my enthusiasm to attend). Besides gelato, pasta and the Pope, Rome is also home to the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. And, on the morning of our Environmental, Ethical and Social Responsibility (EESR) ISF coordination group meeting, we had the opportunity to attend the opening ceremony of the FAO’s First Global Conference on Sustainable Plant Production. ISF Secretary General, Michael Keller, delivered one of the morning’s keynote speeches, highlighting the importance of seed.

The sustainability story for seed has two branches. The first is a very “good news” story that we need to be prepared to tell. As Keller stated in his keynote “the journey to sustainability starts with seed.” Genetics, delivered as seed, can contribute to both adaptation to a changing environment and mitigation of further changes. Because of the way seed is developed and commercialized, each year, Canadian farmers have access to new varieties that are adapted to the growing conditions of today. Scientists are able to access the plant’s genome and optimize trait’s present, including nitrogen use efficiency, root architecture, photosynthetic capability, drought tolerance etc. New plant breeding innovations are opening the door to even more power. In collaboration with pest and climate modelling, scientists can get a jump start, tailoring the plants genetics to resist, and even thrive, amidst predicted biotic and abiotic stressors. More crops, with higher quality, can be produced faster with similar or smaller footprints with new breeding technologies than they could without. But, as a new Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) special report points out, regulatory requirements can act as barriers to deployment of genetic innovation. Developers need to be able to use new innovations and farmers need to be allowed access to them.

The second branch of the seed sustainability story requires some work and adoption of new best practices. Just like crop production, seed production is a contributor to emissions. As new production practices are developed in the quest to achieve sustainability, the seed sector needs to pay attention and follow suit. Land use, water use, and labour will all need to be optimized to ensure the least possible negative impact on society and the environment. Sustainably produced seed will be required to feed into a sustainable crop production system, as a part of a finished product’s lifecycle.

The spotlight on sustainability in our sector is not fading out. In fact, as I write, ISF is representing the seed sector at the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference #COP27, in Cairo, Egypt. Seed is certainly not a silver bullet; we won’t achieve our global goals with seed innovation alone. But rest assured, we have a good story to tell and many opportunities to contribute.

Want to learn more?


Author: Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada Regulatory Affairs Manager

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Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.

Media Inquiries:

Lise Newton
lnewton@seeds-canada.ca
343-777-3867

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NAPPO Annual Meeting 2022: ToBRFV Seeds Project

October 26, 2022 – ToBRFV, or Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus, is a seed-borne virus that affects plants in the Solanaceae family, most notably tomatoes and peppers. The virus, first discovered in 2014, can render fruit unmarketable, leaving wrinkly spots, or rugose, on the fruit, and impacting the appearance of the leaves. The virus is highly transmissible and is categorized as a quarantine pest in North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) member countries: Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Currently, there are no treatments for ToBRFV and sources of genetic resistance have yet to be discovered. Pest management practices include cultural controls, like strict sanitation and, most importantly, sourcing virus-free seed. 

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Canada produced 256,361 metric tonnes of greenhouse tomatoes in 2020, with a total farm gate value of $665.9 million and most production (71%) taking place in Ontario (AAFC, 2020). Although tomatoes are produced here in Canada, most seed for commercial production is imported. ToBRFC has been confirmed in the United States and Mexico and off the continent in Italy, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey (ASTA, 2022). 

With the movement of the pest being strictly controlled in North America, there is a significant threat to Canada’s horticulture industry. While developers are looking at techniques to control the virus’ impact, NAPPO members are working on harmonizing diagnostic protocols to alleviate delays and reduce testing costs to facilitate trade. The ToBRFV testing project aims to evaluate the molecular diagnostic protocols used in different jurisdictions to develop a NAPPO standard protocol to evaluate seed in the future. 

The project is ongoing, with a highly coordinated team of experts from across the continent working together in various subgroups. Canada is participating with four representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and one from industry (Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada), serving on the expert group.

Updates on the project will be provided to Seeds Canada members at the next Vegetable and Garden Seed Policy and Issues Committee Meeting in early 2023.

Crop Profile for Greenhouse Tomato in Canada, 2020 (2020) Agriculture and Agrifood Canada. A118-10-24-2020-eng.pdf (publications.gc.ca)  

Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV): Q&A on the new Tobamovirus (Accessed 2022-10-20) American Seed Trade Association QA-ToBRFV.pdf (hortcouncil.ca)

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Author: Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada Regulatory Affairs Manager

Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.

Media Inquiries:

Lise Newton
lnewton@seeds-canada.ca
343-777-3867

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Global movement is never simple.

October 5, 2022 – In September, I had my first opportunity to travel internationally representing Seeds Canada, attending the Seed American Association (SAA) Congress in Punta del Este, Uruguay. SAA represents the interests of the Seed Industry within the Americas. Seeds Canada is a member of SAA and has a representative serving on the SAA Board of Directors.

This trip was my first to the southern hemisphere and, despite my best efforts in planning, my travel to Uruguay didn’t exactly go smoothly. Prior to leaving, I tried my best to ensure my vaccinations were up to date, although, it wasn’t clear which ones I would need, and my historical records were a mix of incomplete handwritten papers and modern electronic listings. I, of course, needed proof of covid vaccination to get into the US and Uruguay, but, which documents, or records would serve as adequate proof was questionable. So, I brought everything: papers from the pharmacy, the Alberta Health QR code, all my written and digital records.

I arrived in Houston to discover that my flight to Buenos Aires had been cancelled due to maintenance issues and rescheduled to the next morning. This not only necessitated a night in Houston, but also meant I couldn’t fly from Argentina to Uruguay until the following day adding an additional night in Buenos Aires that I hadn’t prepared for. Being Canadian, I’ve done my best to master both French and English, but my Spanish is “no es bueno”. This didn’t make anything easier.

What is the point of this sob story beyond trying to garner some sympathy?

International movement of people and goods is rarely straightforward. Unfortunately, our seed system is global, and this can’t be avoided. In Canada, we rely on southern regions for contra-season nurseries to allow advancing of generations and bulking of seed stocks more quickly. Seed needs to move down, and then back up. Many of our crops are not conducive to seed production in Canada at all, so we rely on international imports. Once a crop is grown, we also need to ensure that a particular variety or seed treatment is approved for import in that market.

A large portion of the conversation in Punta del Este focused on the need and benefit of harmonization of practices amongst countries. Phytosanitary requirements differ in each jurisdiction and are regularly evolving. Side meetings were held with Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG), the national agency responsible for plant protection in Chile, to discuss phytosanitary issues and inspections of Canadian contra-season canola production. While differences in process may cause frustration, it is obvious, not only from this meeting but from the plenary sessions, that the desire to collaborate, cooperate and harmonize is strong. Meetings like the SAA and national seed trade organizations provide venues for these discussions and, hopefully, lead to stronger relationships in the future.

 

Harmonization of plant breeding innovation policy and regulation was also a hot topic on the SAA agenda. South America is generally progressive in embracing genetic technology, with a few exceptions like Peru, similar to Canada. However, recent referendums held in Chile, which considered modifications to the country’s legislation and acceptance of biotechnology, could have created major issues for the Canadian seed trade. Health Canada’s recently released guidance on crops developed via gene editing, as well as the proposed direction from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was given a nod as progressive regulation which other countries should seek to aspire to. While the Americas may have reasonable harmonization, the same cannot be said for the rest of the world, and much work remains.      

The SAA Congress wrapped up by discussing a topic that seems to be on the agenda at any ag conference, no matter the location. Conversations on sustainability in the seed sector focused not only on the contribution of seed and associated technologies to help improve soil health and mitigate, as well as facilitate adaptation to, climate change, but also on the seed sector’s role in responsibly using resources, including land, water, and people, in production. If it hasn’t already, sustainability may become yet another metric that allows- or impedes- movement of seed within the global marketplace.

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations with the international seed community. However, hopefully next time with fewer obstacles to my movement.

Author: Lauren Comin, Seeds Canada Regulatory Affairs Manager

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Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.

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