The Canadian seed industry is in the right place at the right time with the right product and the right message.

On Feb. 6, the chair of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s council of economic advisers called on the federal government to work hard at reforming the Canadian economy in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States.

“We’re a small trading nation. We’ve got to take more control of our own destiny,” Dominic Barton told reporters. “We can’t just rely on a global system [that we assume is] going to naturally grow.”

The council’s new report, titled The Path to Prosperity, is extremely encouraging for agriculture. It nicely identifies the many opportunities for our industry that exist out there. Demand for food is expected to rise 70 per cent by 2050, it notes, and farmers need to produce as much food in the next 45 years as they did in the last 10,000. A staggering figure!

A good deal of this demand, the report adds, will come from emerging markets, where some three billion people are expected to enter the middle class from 2010 to 2030, particularly in Asia — and to consume considerably more protein than their less wealthy counterparts do today.

Scott Horner of HyTech Production served as CSTA president during the 2015-16 year.

This presents a huge opportunity for Canada. I believe we’re set to seize that opportunity like never before. To quote my friend and current Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) president Brent Derkatch, we’re as close as ever to being in the right place at the right time with the right product and the right message. The stars are aligning for agriculture and the seed industry to do extremely well in the future.

I know this because of the conversations I’ve had in recent months, many of them inspired by the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project that our country’s six major seed sector organizations — CSTA, Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, Canadian Seed Analysts Association of Canada, Canadian Seed Institute, Canadian Plant Technology Agency and CropLife Canada — are a part of. The project is meant to chart a new course for the Canadian seed industry, and I believe it’s already working.

Throughout the history of our six organizations, we have never communicated as effectively amongst each other as we are doing today. The awareness that’s developing around the challenges we all face, and the opportunity to face those challenges together more effectively, is becoming more apparent today than ever before.

We’re aware of each other’s challenges and perspectives and we’re talking about how to approach those challenges and solve them. Anytime you get people together talking openly and honestly, the outcome is so much better than trying to face the world on our own.

Look at the success Partners in Innovation had in moving UPOV 91 forward in Canada. I see similar benefits coming through the Seed Synergy activity.

The Seed Synergy project will help the industry move further, faster. Technology is moving at such a fast pace. The regulatory system we have today is effective and is a model many jurisdictions in the world point to as a successful one.

However, our regulatory system is a victim of its own success. It was developed over many decades, with solutions to challenges being bolted on as they came up, and it’s become cumbersome and not as reactive and efficient as it needs to be.

In the meantime, we see our competitors moving forward with very forward-thinking, very new approaches to regulation to help enable innovation and the development of technology. The United States Department of Agriculture is looking at new breeding techniques and considering the following piece of legislation: if a product derived from a new breeding technique could have been derived from regular breeding methods, then there’s no need for it to be regulated in any way.

It’s that kind of mindset that will really expedite the introduction and adoption of new breeding technology in the United States. That’s what we need to do to remain competitive — be innovative and forward thinking in our approach. I feel the Seed Synergy project will help us do that.

Very soon, our six respective industry organizations will be engaging with grower associations and with government, collaborating very broadly to ensure what’s developed is well thought-out and comprehensive in ensuring we can continue to deliver safe, healthy products to market.

As a former CSTA president, I know firsthand what great things our industry is capable of. We’re on the cusp of something even greater, and the next number of months will be ones to watch. Stay tuned, because it all starts with the seed.

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