The year is almost at an end, and what a year it was.
Canadian Seed Trade Association members are incredibly resilient. They adapt, change and innovate at a very fast rate. A major challenge is ensuring that Canada has a regulatory environment that encourages and fosters investment in innovation at home. Uncertainty in the regulatory system and the addition of extra regulations at the provincial level are concerning, especially when there are already science-based federal regulations in place.
Canada is in competition with our global trading partners when it comes to investing in innovation, and Canada must be seen as a good place to invest, innovate and do business. This is why CSTA and its members took part in several initiatives in 2017 aimed at protecting innovation and ensuring our country continues to be a world leader in this sphere.
In May, CSTA, CropLife Canada and the Canada Grains Council (CGC) held a one-day workshop that brought public/private plant breeders and value chain members together to discuss what is working for plant breeders within the current system and what could be improved upon. More than 60 stakeholders from government, industry and academia, both domestically and internationally, took part.
Some major takeaways were:
- Canada’s current system needs to evolve to avoid stifling innovation, and to help unlock the untapped potential of the agriculture sector;
- Canada is well positioned to adapt to new emerging methods of plant breeding, thanks to a focus on regulating novel products rather than the processes used to develop them; and
- Our ability to adopt innovation hinges on having a clear, predictable and consistent regulatory environment both in Canada and in all significant export markets.
The CGC has struck an industry working group on plant breeding innovation to build off the workshop results and develop a value chain policy position on plant breeding innovation for Canada. This position will elaborate on the need for Canada to develop a consistent and predictable regulatory environment to encourage innovation and maintain trade.
I had the pleasure of travelling to Colombia in September for the sixth annual congress of the Seed Association of the Americas (SAA). Plant breeding innovation was discussed at length, and it was clear that CSTA members have a crucial role to play in it. It’s also worth noting that the International Seed Federation held its third international workshop in London, England, and the mid-term meetings in Montreal, Quebec, were held in October. The London meeting was the first time the Canadian government was invited to take part, and shows internationally that plant breeding innovation is top-of-mind.
CSTA is also taking part in the Canada Grains Roundtable, which is focusing on four areas identified by industry as the major obstacles to improving the sector’s competitiveness: economics, innovation, market access, and environment and climate change. The Roundtable has seven active working groups, and has already identified a potential model for consideration to foster innovation in cereal varieties. That’s going to be important, so watch this space for updates.
All this is to say nothing of our participation in the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project, which we’re also very excited about.
I became CSTA’s executive director this past July, and the last five months have further entrenched my opinion that CSTA’s greatest strength is our members. In return, we provide a unified voice that is well connected with parliamentarians, bureaucrats and regulators to ensure the interests and needs of our members are known at every level of government.
CSTA has also earned a reputation as an excellent collaborator, an association that brings groups together to accomplish a common goal that we may not otherwise have been able to get done as individual organizations. CSTA and our board of directors always put the greater interests of the seed industry first. We have and will continue to provide a venue where industry can meet, share ideas and challenge each other on policy positions.
All the best in 2018!