The Seed Synergy project looks to help the Canadian seed and agri-food sectors evolve with the times — and thrive while doing it.

As the seed industry in Canada continues to develop and mature, the seed regulatory system that supports it will need to continue to evolve with it. In this context, as government transfers more responsibility to industry for the management of the seed regulatory system, its decisions must be guided by a clear and shared vision of desired future outcomes. By most accounts, this vision needs, at a minimum, to be refreshed and the implementation of any resultant changes the product of a more clearly defined public-private partnership.

Recognizing this, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association’s Board of Directors approved an ambitious Action Plan at their last face-to-face meeting in November 2015. Although still in its early stages, the implementation of the plan has built momentum on multiple fronts, most notably in advancing dialogue with government, within CSGA and its provincial branches and with its seed industry partners.

Discussions with the latter group are particularly noteworthy and of late have taken the form of a commitment by the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada, the Canadian Plant Technology Agency and CropLife Canada to work together on a joint “Seed Synergy” project, currently being fleshed out by the leadership of the six organizations, with the assistance of a facilitating consultant.

To date, the parties have agreed on the need to be ready if and when the government decides to move forward with a review of the seed regulatory system, and by extension with changes to it. In the past, these types of exercises have often been long, drawn out affairs often spanning years, and sometimes decades. While there is no guarantee that past patterns will not repeat, there are signs that this time could be different.

To begin with, there is growing concern that the critical mass of expertise available to operate the seed regulatory system has been reduced to a point where the system, in its current form, may not be sustainable without a re-design. There is also agreement among seed industry partners on many of the key questions that need to be asked in relation to such a re-design, including:

1) what should the purpose of the seed regulatory system be;

2) what type of “next generation” system is best suited to fulfill that purpose;

3) what should the respective roles of industry and government be in any future system and:

4) what institutional arrangements will be required to support it.

In addition, there is growing awareness that nothing we do as an industry occurs in a vacuum. We cannot take our social license for granted and we need a plan that will allow us to meet future challenges together. The Seed Synergy project is clearly a positive step in this direction. In order for CSGA to continue to be a full partner in this project, we will need to develop an even better understanding than we have now of what our members’ views are on the key regulatory and other issues facing the industry.

With the expectation that a detailed Seed Synergy project plan will be agreed upon by early summer, work is underway to ensure that CSGA’s seven branches and more than 3,500 active members can be kept aware of progress and engaged on key issues throughout the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017 as the initial vision of a potential “next generation” system is expected to take form. Key among this work is the planned launch of consultations on CSGA’s next strategic plan; which will take place at the July 2016 summer meetings in Clear Lake, Manitoba.

These are exciting times for the CSGA and for the seed industry as a whole. We look forward to the engagement and discussion to come and ultimately to building the broad consensus required to ensure a bright future for all.

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