Roy Van Wyk, Canadian Seed Institute executive director

It wasn’t until Dec. 24, 1998, in a small office in Ottawa, Ont., that Jim McCullagh, who served as the Canadian Seed Institute’s (CSI) first executive director, signed the first authorization agreement with Mike Scheffel of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). That was a noteworthy moment for the seed industry.

During that time, much like today, the federal government was looking to cut costs by delegating responsibility to the seed industry, which resulted in the birth of CSI. This was  a clear signal that the industry’s role in seed certification was starting to expand.

The formation of CSI represented a united response from seed industry stakeholders to changes in their business environment. The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada were the founding members of CSI, and were later joined by the Association of Alberta Co-op Seed Cleaning Plants and the Quebec Seed Conditioners.

Created as a neutral body to provide third-party oversight of seed industry activities that needed to comply with the federal Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations, CSI was given the authority by CFIA to assess: Registered Seed Establishments (RSEs) for accreditation, Operators and Graders of RSEs for accreditation; and Accredited Seed Labs for ongoing accreditation.

In 2002, CFIA continued to delegate oversight activities to the seed industry with the establishment of the its Canadian Phytosanitary Certification Program for Seed (CPCPS). This was a program designed by CFIA to let Canadian companies employ a quality system, ensuring that the “small” seed lots they ship to the United States comply with U.S. phytosanitary import requirements.

Expanding Services

Like the seed industry, the grain markets are demanding with many unique specifications around product quality and traceability, which presented a new opportunity for CSI’s third-party verification system, as Canada’s grain industry has a strong reputation in international markets for delivering safe, high quality grain.

To support the industry’s work implementing grain quality assurance systems, CSI worked with the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) as they developed a voluntary program for identity preservation and food safety, specifically for the grain handling industry.

The Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System (CIPRS) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point programs (HACCP) are tools the industry can use to provide third-party assurance that the programs they have implemented deliver the unique quality and traceability specifications their clients demand. CSI is the only accredited audit body delivering CIPRS and HACCP audits on behalf of the CGC.

Meeting Demands

More recently, CSI has been working with the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) on a soybean sustainability initiative. The Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) is a sustainability initiative with roots in South America. Like many agricultural sustainability initiatives, the RTRS standard is based on key principles involving environmental responsibility, good agricultural practices, responsible labour practices, and legal and social responsibility.

A national interpretation of the RTRS standard was approved for Canada in the spring of 2014, and the very first grower group was certified later that year. However, with demand for RTRS soybeans growing in Europe and the lack of a Canadian-based certification body, Canadian producers have been paying a premium to work with a foreign certification body and foreign inspectors. With support of GFO and other soybean industry stakeholders, CSI began the process of becoming an RTRS certification body this year.

Today, CSI’s mission is to provide cost-effective audit, inspection and certification services for its agricultural clients. Its history is rooted in the seed industry, but CSI has been expanding its services to address the growing needs of its existing client base.

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