Seed World

Why we Need a Summit on Seed Regulatory Modernization

In this week’s podcast, we sit down with Seeds Canada President Ellen Sparry and Executive Director Barry Senft to talk about the Seed Regulatory Modernization Stakeholder Summit that Seeds Canada is initiating.

Seeds Canada says it has identified a need for additional input concerning stakeholder requirements for a future seed system and is initiating what it calls a stakeholder summit early in 2022 that would bring together all value chain participants impacted by the Seeds Regulations in a virtual format.

There is broad agreement that a review of the regulatory framework is required as the last major review of the regulatory framework was completed in 1996, Sparry says.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at our Seeds Regulations, to step back and look at something that was developed with the right reasons at the time but needs changing to suit our modern way of doing business,” she notes in this week’s podcast.

“We were challenged at our semi-annual meeting last fall to have that big picture, blank slate sort of discussion. The question is, how do you do that, and how do you do it effectively? We need everybody in the virtual room to find that common ground.”

The intention behind the summit would be to assess the current regulatory environment and ask stakeholders what they need from a modernized seed system in Canada. These insights will inform what Seeds Canada calls a “Seed Regulatory Modernization Vision” and the regulatory review process.

Discussions will be framed around themes addressing key components of an innovative, competitive, and end-user friendly Canadian seed system. Seeds Canada will keep stakeholders apprised of summit plans as they develop, Senft said.

“I think if we had to do the SRM process over again, maybe we’d start with something like a summit, to take stock of what’s going on with our international competitors and what’s changed with our customer base.”

Need for Big-Picture Thinking

Seeds Canada’s members-only semi-annual meeting was held in November and included a member discussion on seed regulatory modernization (SRM) and also a roundtable with Siddika Mithani, president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Prior to the meeting, Senft said Seeds Canada is concerned that the industry has not yet had the kind of “big picture” discussions needed to make significant regulatory change.

“We’re concerned about the process leading up to it, that we haven’t had those big picture issues discussing the vision for what the future the seed industry should look like,” Senft said.

“We need the big picture laid out, then work toward that vision. Seeds Canada is participating in this process with the understanding that the needed changes are going to absolutely occur. This was meant to be a substantial review of the seeds regulations, and that’s what we want to see come out of it.”

As part of the SRM initiatives, a number of task teams have been formed to identify areas for potential change.

Senft said Seeds Canada intends to spur a bottom-up, grassroots approach to issues impacting seed regulatory modernization and collaborative advocacy. He says early steps and engagement strategies will significantly increase the likelihood of success and an outcome that is truly representative of the needs of the sector.

During the Seeds Canada semi-annual meeting, Mithani reiterated the fact that government sees the SRM initiative as a chance to make substantial change to Canada’s seed regulations, including rethinking government regulation of seed in Canada.

“I would pose this same question to the seed industry: what do you think that CFIA needs to do to ensure that people are thinking big? Getting this right is important,” Mithani said. “We are open to substantial change, including examining the role of government in the regulation of seed. Hence, our commitment to a full-scale review.”

Mithani said the SRM process is about deciding what role government should play in the seeds regulations, and the co-development process it encourages — which has taken the form of eight task teams that will look at various parts of the seed regulatory landscape and put forward recommendations for change — is meant to ensure all those involved in the industry have their voices heard in doing so.

But she also emphasized the need to stay focused on the end goal of SRM.

“The health and safety of Canadians are an important part of what we do; however, some acts that are part of the CFIA’s mandate also have an emphasis on enhancing the economy and consumer protection. We are all working towards the common goal of having appropriate regulations to support a vibrant seed sector and field crop industry in Canada,” she added.