At a time of technology and globalization, many of the experts in this year’s Giant Views of the Industry had interesting stories to tell about being adaptable. Enjoy some of the highlights of their news and insights.

Perfecting IP

If you could create an intellectual property regime for seeds and traits in Canada from scratch, what would it look like? “I’ve thought about this a lot and I think the main thing is that it’s about respect. I would like to see a system where instead of relying on legislative techniques, there is an agreement and respect between producers and seed companies. Seed companies bring valuable products to producers that producers need, so there should be a respectful relationship, where there is true agreement—that this is a value the grower will pay for and honour. The legislative techniques behind that could be numerous, or they could be as simple as just contracts between producers and seed companies that are supported and respected by all the various entities that deal with producers.” —Lorne Hadley of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency

Mutagenesis Revolution

What is the difference between Cibus’ Rapid Trait Development System and transgenic technology? “The fundamental difference is that transgenic technology uses foreign DNA. It involves taking foreign DNA from a plant, another species, and inserting it into a plant. We have learned how to harness a natural mechanism within the plant and we actually encourage the plant to make its own natural mutation, so there’s no foreign DNA. Therefore, we are a mutagenesis technology; we’re very sight specific. What does that mean? The benefit is, quite frankly, it’s about one-tenth of the cost of transgenic technology. Our development projects typically run somewhere around seven million dollars over a three- to four-year period. That’s about roughly a tenth what it would cost to do a transgenic project when you include all the regulatory aspects and everything that goes into the development of a project.”—David Voss of Cibus

Increasing Consumer Acceptance

“A Nanos Research poll done in 2007 showed that eight out of 10 Canadians felt that agricultural biotechnology had benefits. I think [acceptance is increasing] because we’re seeing more benefits starting to come that consumers can relate to. We’re seeing things like soybeans with omega-3, which are good for your health and heart specifically. Pretty soon we’re going to see tomatoes that have increased levels of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight certain cancers. So, as we start to get more of these benefits happening, I think acceptance is going to increase.”—Janice Tranberg of CropLife Canada

Branding Matters

“Branding within BASF really comes down to not only the innovation we deliver, but also what it is that you provide as value and what does it mean to a customer when they hear that brand name or see that logo. Value can come about in different ways, but branding is critical in terms of what you deliver to the customer’s value.” —Harley House of BASF Canada

Chinese Powerhouse

“The seed industry in China is very interesting, creates lots of excitement and has lots of opportunities for those companies that have the time, patience and understanding of the market. What is interesting in China is that the national and state governments consider food security as one of their top priorities. Obviously, they also see the value of biotechnology and the development of improved seed varieties for the Chinese market. China right now is probably second to only the United States in regards to biotechnology, and although we don’t have access to China’s biotech market at this point in time, we all anticipate that time will come and it will come when China is ready with its own biotechnology and its own products.” —David Hansen of Canterra Seeds

Benefits to Non-GM Technology

“We’re not opposed to transgenic technology, we’re just an alternative to transgenic technology. And what drives a company like us is that we are faster to the market—it’s easier for us to get through the regulatory process, which is a significant burden on companies. We’ve actually obtained regulatory approvals in some parts of the world—the USDA has reviewed our technology and they agree with us that it is a mutagenesis technology and we’re clean. We are lower cost in the total development package and that means the farmers, ultimately, are going to be saving money in the long run with utilizing our technology.”—David Voss of Cibus

Successful Enforcement

What is the biggest success of the CPTA? “It goes back a couple of years, but I think we had a series of years in the 2000s where we were able to bring actions against companies that were stealing from three companies at once. So, we’re able to coordinate enforcement actions where we did undercover purchases and filed the cases for three separate companies on three separate varieties against a single infringer. It sent the message that the whole industry’s concerned, and that an infringer can’t steal from one company this year and another company next year and another company the third year.”—Lorne Hadley of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency

Advancing Seed Production With Technology

Advancements in seed production—in the field and out—are impacting the sector. “Obviously GPS tracking in hybrid seed production has allowed us to go back in and manage split plants and male and female planting separately. GIS information has allowed us to manage fields with much more intense programs. Out of the field, the quality aspect has improved dramatically and we’re getting results much quicker and are able to move products into the market immediately following harvest, which we weren’t able to do previously.”—Brian McNaughton of Hytech Production

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