Seed World

Do We Need Variety Registration? David Harwood Says No

We find out from Corteva Agriscience’s technical services manager about the intricacies of the most important policy initiative happening right now: Seed Regulatory Modernization.

As part of the much-publicized process known as Seed Regulatory Modernization (SRM), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is looking to update the Seeds Regulations to:

  • Protect producers and consumers by strengthening existing requirements
  • Improve responsiveness and consistency
  • Reduce complexity
  • Become adaptable and flexible to function in the modern, fast-changing world

But how can we accomplish these things by updating the regulations? How can regulatory change lead to these outcomes, and how is seed quality impacted? Today we hear from David Harwood, technical services manager for Corteva Agriscience.

Corteva uses an internal quality assurance system to ensure the quality of its seed, which is something enabled by the seed regulations for canola, corn and soybean. What does this system look like?

We use our own internal system to manage the physical and physiological quality of canola, soybean and corn seed very carefully throughout the production process.

The seed quality testing that we do is reminiscent of the standards that Sarah referred to, but we have made some modifications. We use two terms internally — warm germ, which is a smaller seed sample test than a classic germination test, and for some jurisdictions where we sell corn, we’re required to have a 400 seed test, and so we conduct that test as well.

In addition to that, and this is beyond the traditional seed certification requirements, we do a stress test. We still use the term Pioneer Stress Test that was developed in the Pioneer business several years ago, where we really challenge seed corn. We also do the same for canola and soybeans with very cold germination temperatures, additional chilling, etc., in order to advance the establishment characteristics of seed under stress. That’s something beyond what is required by our seeds regulations.

We also do genetic testing, to test for trueness to type or to make sure we’re not exceeding standards for adventitious presence. We test for other traits as well as other genotypes that may come from pollen flowing into a seed field despite isolation, or the presence of genetically modified traits in conventional products is something we screen for very rigorously. That is also beyond what’s required by our standard certification system. Then, of course, comes trait purity. We test to make sure we have the required percentages of the advertised traits, which is again not something required by the certification system.

If your internal quality assurance system goes over and above what’s required by our certification system, do you feel internal quality assurance systems can be relied on more in our industry?

As an organization that is operating at a level that goes beyond the CSGA certification standards, we’re of the view that our standards are pretty rigorous, and we don’t really need the backstop of a certification system. We would prefer that we certify our own seed crop. If you have an internal quality assurance program as a quality management system, we feel that you should be able to rely on that process as an alternative to standard certification.

What other parts of our system do you feel can be changed?

Variety registration is a big one. Variety registration is an unnecessary level of regulation in the seed industry. It stifles innovation and limits the flexibility of the value chain to be nimble and respond as quickly as it might otherwise. We’ve got a number of crops that don’t require variety registration today, like corn. It’s a thriving industry without variety registration. Food grade soybeans are another example of seed that doesn’t require variety registration, and this process works very well. Then there’s crops like oilseed soybeans, where we’re just listing varieties, we’re not testing them for merit. Then there’s canola, where we just do quality testing for, not merit testing.

For more on this topic visit:

What Government Hopes to Get Out of the SRM Process

How Does Regulation Ensure Seed Quality? We Ask Expert 1 of 3

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