Germination presents a series of stories on the 20 most influential people in the seed sector in 2018. Want to nominate someone for 2019? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Top 20 nomination”!
As our industry works to design a next-generation seed regulatory system for Canada via the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project, Wendy Jahn can feel the weight of the responsibility on her shoulders. As national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Seed Section, she’s responsible for enforcing the Seeds Act and Regulations and administering federal seed law within Canada.
With the entire seed regulatory system currently under the microscope, the next couple of years are going to be crucial for the CFIA, the seed industry and Jahn herself.
“I can’t help but feel the biggest challenge of my career is yet to come,” she says. She’s been at CFIA for 12 years and had a decade of experience in the agriculture industry prior to that. She says that seed regulatory modernization offers a once-in-a-generation chance to create a new future for an entire industry, and with 2020 being the goal to finalize that new regulatory system, Jahn has a lot of work to do.
She took over as Seed Section national manager a year ago, having served as one of the acting managers prior to that. She’s seen the CFIA Seed Section evolve over the past number of years, as the federal agency has progressively turned to alternative service delivery for activities that CFIA itself used to provide — a process she says is nothing new and actually began in 1904 with the creation of the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association.
“We’ve always believed it’s important to look at where we need government to be and where we don’t,” she says. “We still need to have confidence in our seed certification system and seed regulatory system as a whole, but there are opportunities for many activities occurring outside of regulation and perhaps even outside government. It’s been a fascinating journey.”
For Jahn, that journey originally began when she finished her master’s degree in plant breeding at the University of Guelph. She wanted to work in seed, but her first job was with Maple Leaf Foods exporting food grade soybeans. She was connected with the seed industry in various forms throughout her career including her time as general manager of the Ontario Soybean Growers.
“I’ve worked for a private company, provincial and federal governments and a producer group. Most of us at the CFIA Seed Section have worked in industry in a number of capacities. We know the challenges the industry faces,” she says. That makes CFIA staff adept at working with industry to create a new regulatory system that works for stakeholders and best serves Canadians, Jahn adds.
“I’m really hopeful that seed regulatory modernization will result in the best outcome to make a level playing field for industry and for the producers and consumers who purchase seed and related products,” she adds. “The next few years will be a big challenge for me but a great experience.”
(Hear Wendy Jahn speak about the evolution of seed regulatory modernization.)