Seed World

A Century of History will Guide the Seed Trade into the Future

When I began my time as interim executive director for the Canadian Seed Trade Association early in 2020, I knew I would likely be the last executive director to serve this distinguished organization.

I didn’t know that a pandemic was at our doorstep and the year would turn out to be a tumultuous one packed with challenges. I’m happy to say that despite all that 2020 brought, it ended on a good note with the official ratification of Seeds Canada. CSTA will join with three of our other industry associations to become something bigger and better — a national seed organization that intends to pave the path ahead for the seed industry of today and the one of the future.

As we morph into Seeds Canada, I look forward to watching the seed trade evolve into something newer, bigger and better. We can’t move forward, though, without first looking back and appreciating where the seed trade has been and its accomplishments.

For 99 years, the CSTA has helped lead the way in a shifting business landscape.

Being an almost century-old organization, it’s no surprise that the CSTA was a product of its time and place. In the early 1920s, the seed landscape looked much different than today.

At the time, the federal government and its agriculture minister were looking for an advisory board to advise them on matters pertaining to the Canada Seeds Act. The CSTA was officially formed in 1922 to provide such an advisory board.

The association began to expand its influence, and in time went from an advisory role to the function it serves today — as a major voice for the Canadian seed trade.

It now represents well over 100 member companies in all matters pertaining to all aspects of seed research, production and marketing, both domestically and internationally.

As Canada’s agriculture industry became more varied and began spreading out, the CSTA adapted to suit the changing times. The seed industry gradually expanded into the Prairie provinces. Seed companies were set up in Western Canada to process and sell seed.

In the 1940s, the CSTA expanded to form eastern and western seed trade associations. A consolidated convention in the 1940s was where the tradition began of having CSTA presidents alternate between East and West.

As CSTA has changed to suit a shifting agricultural landscape, its membership has changed right along with it. When it was founded, members consisted largely of small, independently owned seed companies. In the age of consolidation, that has shifted.

Over the past 20 years especially, seed businesses have merged, closed, been sold and bought. Membership of the CSTA has gradually shifted to encompass more large and multinational companies. However, we continue to welcome members from all walks of life, and in the past few months we have seen new members — including seed growers and their regional business — join our ranks in order to show their willingness to be a part of Seeds Canada.

Indeed, for 99 years we have used our influence to move our sector forward. The CSTA played an important role in the adoption of UPOV 91 in 2015. We have worked with government to create positive change.

What currently exists as CSTA has a tremendous home within the new national seed organization. Seeds Canada’s new committee structure ensures our important work will continue, but within a larger organization that will benefit from a deeper talent pool.

CSTA’s current committees are preserved as Seeds Canada’s policy and issues committees. The Advocacy and Communications steering committee will also ensure our important lobbying and public education efforts will go on.

As Seeds Canada moves ahead, we are also engaged in the crucial process of regulatory modernization. The Variety Use Agreement (VUA) pilot project will continue in 2021 and looks to become an important tool for value creation in Canada, with an important eye toward the pulse sector and beyond.

As CSTA has evolved over the past 99 years, Seeds Canada will evolve just the same, and we’ll look back and wonder what took us so long to put our heads together and create a better agriculture sector for all.