Seed World

Are we Ready and Willing to Face the Future?

Glyn Chancey
Executive Director

Now that the recent Seed Synergy workshops are complete, we have a better idea of people’s initial thoughts on the green paper and the vision it lays out for our industry. We also have a clearer sense of what the hard choices may be.

Based on the feedback received to-date, there seems to be a consensus forming that we are heading in the right direction, which is great to see. Views were plentiful on some of the more ambitious elements of the green paper, which was also encouraging, and in this regard we received clear messaging with respect to areas that need more work and definition. While these are still early days and we have yet to hear from government on the specifics of our proposals, the high quality of the workshop dialogue and the level of energy seen over the last view months is very encouraging.

For me, the green paper’s most significant and challenging proposal is the notion of an industry-led, government-enabled seed system. The paper leaves somewhat to the imagination precisely what that would look like and how it would be different from the status quo. That said, we may be seeing the elements of a consensus emerging; most notably that the seed industry and the various crop value chains to which it is linked would need to play a larger role in a number of areas going forward, including in setting seed standards, operating the seed certification system and providing a single window service model for those who rely on the system. Very importantly, we are hearing that the status quo with respect to investment in plant breeding innovation in a number of major crop kinds is not sufficient and new value creation models need to be pursued.

This said, it is also important to note that most see this vision as entirely compatible with government continuing to play a prominent role in the system, whether that be in: maintaining the regulatory frameworks relating to health and safety, intellectual property protection and quality assurance, accrediting and overseeing industry bodies delivering seed certification, supporting compliance and enforcement, or facilitating international recognition of and public trust in the system, among other roles. So in short, to this point, there appears to be

interest in and support for a possible rebalancing of roles and responsibilities of government and industry in the operation of the seed system, but not for wholesale deregulation.

So now the focus is shifting to more detailed questions around what a next-generation seed system might look like and how it will translate into benefits for seed and agriculture sector stakeholders, as well as the general public and taxpayer. In this regard, we may be looking at some hard questions, such as whether industry will have to assume more of the costs associated with running the system, currently borne by the taxpayer, as is the case in other jurisdictions. The answer to this question may come down to the whether all the beneficiaries of the Canadian seed system and not just the pedigreed seed industry are willing to share more equally in the costs of running it.

This said, the benefit of stepping up to the plate as leaders will be that your business gets to function in a more dynamic, innovative environment where you have more influence on the levers. In this context a key question is: how ambitious do we want to be in designing a next-generation system that we hope will reduce regulatory burden, release creativity and drive growth? Whatever the answer, this exercise is challenging us at a minimum to think differently about what’s possible in Canadian seed and how what we do impacts the agriculture sector as a whole.