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What we heard report: Winter 2023 consultation on the seed regulatory modernization (excluding seed potatoes)

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As part of the seed regulatory modernization (SEED-RM) process, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is planning to review and update the following sections of the Seeds Regulations:

This report summarizes the feedback received on the 2023 Winter Consultation on SEED-RM.

Consultation overview

The winter 2023 SEED-RM consultation and update for seed crops is the first update and consultation based on the recommendations from the following seed task teams which have completed their final reports on:

To request a copy of one or all of the final reports above, e-mail and include the topic on the report in your subject line.

The consultation provided an update to stakeholders on discussions to date and provided an opportunity to obtain stakeholder feedback on their level of support for certain task team recommendations. Stakeholder feedback was collected through an online survey from February 15 to May 1, 2023 on the following seed regulatory life cycle stages:

Who we heard from

The CFIA received feedback from a total of 315 respondents which included:

Respondents were able to select the life cycle stage(s) to submit feedback to the CFIA. Feedback on each life cycle stage received included:

As part of the responses, the CFIA received feedback from 24 different organizations/associations on behalf of their membership.

What we heard

Stakeholders provided valuable perspectives and information to establish an understanding of their level of support for the task team recommendations covered in this consultation. A high-level summary of the results is provided below:

Recommendations supported

Having a national variety registration system

Common themes among the 152 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Variety registration creates a high level of trust as the quality of traits is consistent in the seed and crops grown in Canada which equips farmers to make decisions about what they grow while maintaining end-user confidence for products to be in a competitive market
  • There are marketing, branding and reputational benefits when using registered varieties of seed in Canada's grain variety registration and classification system
  • The variety registration system should be made available to those crops and value chains which see value in this process allowing them to decide on participation or placement within a national variety registration system

Developing a regulatory pathway for heritage and heirloom varieties

Common themes among the 161 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Farmers should be supported to market and sell/distribute heritage or heirloom varieties of seed that provide unique benefits for seed diversity, genetic diversity to develop new commercial varieties, crop rotations, cultural value, and food security
  • Heritage and heirloom varieties should be subject to the current requirements that enable variety registration, such as pest pressure, and a varieties adaptation to these conditions to be considered to protect the public interest, avoid potential harm to the grain handling system and preserve seed quality in Canada as poor quality seed of these varieties could damage Canada's international reputation
  • Deficiencies relative to any current registration requirements should be transparent for heritage and heirloom varieties
  • There should be a process in place to prevent a registrant of a cancelled or to-be cancelled variety from being required to maintain breeder seed of a registered heirloom or heritage variety if it is not in their best interest

Regional recommending committees having the authority to recommend placing a regional restriction on a variety registration in their specific region

Common themes among the 159 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • National registration should be allowed only if the variety has been tested for disease resistance and quality in both regions, merits should be proven in the area of production
  • If recommending committee members believe there is a risk of disease or quality issues due to the difference in growing conditions (for example, moisture, soil type, temperatures, etc.) between the eastern and western regions, they should have the authority to establish regional restrictions
  • This is self-regulating by the market and the end user, an individual should be able to decide what to grow on their land but be informed of the risks, including their economic risk, if a variety is not known to or does not meet the disease, pest or quality standards for the end-use market when the variety is grown their region
  • Continued support for consistency across regional recommending committees is important to ensure they are all operating with consistent procedures, a clear over-arching policy with open and transparent communication between recommending committees when there is a consideration of regional restrictions

Continuing to have one national body establishing and determining the seed crop varietal purity standards to issue a seed crop certificate

Common themes among the 151 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIAinclude:

  • Having a single national body has built trust in Canada's seed system in both domestic and international markets
  • The Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA) should remain as the one national body
  • National consistency is important, one body is simpler and more transparent
    • Multiple bodies will create confusion in the marketplace as well as with Canada's international partners
  • The entire value chain needs to be involved in setting field standards

Making the purity standards for No. 1 and No. 2 grades the same

Common themes among the 128 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Maintaining No. 2 germination standards will reduce the impact of shortages of certified seed due to poor growing conditions
  • Seed processing equipment has improved, and higher quality standards are achievable
  • This is not the case for all crop types and a more thorough consultation should be conducted with forage, lawn turf and organic stakeholders
    • When seed availability is limited, the germination and purity standards of No. 2 seed provide opportunities for seed sale and production

Recommendations with mixed reaction

For the recommendations listed below, respondents were split in their support where some liked the recommendation while other respondents did not agree with the recommendation. For the last recommendation in this category, a large number of participants indicated that they needed more information before they could make a decision.

Removing Schedule III from the Seeds Regulations and using Incorporation by Reference for this information

Common themes among the 170 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Concerns about transparency and a lack of broad stakeholder input:
    • There should be a high bar for adding or removing crop kinds, and for moving crop kinds between parts
    • Any needed changes to Schedule III can be done through the Canada Gazette process which is public and transparent
    • The CFIA must ensure clear guidelines are set during this process while striving to gain consensus among stakeholders impacted by a specific crop kind
  • A process is required to ensure sufficient consultation is carried out, if incorporating Schedule III from the Seeds Regulations by reference the CFIA must be the responsible party
  • By taking Schedule III out of the regulations and putting it into a document that can be "incorporated by reference," the CFIA could update the Schedule in a more efficient manner

Delivery of training to Licensed Seed Crop Inspectors by a non-CFIA party

Common themes among the 179 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • As long as there are still checks and balances in place. The CFIA oversight should be maintained to ensure consistent training etc.
  • The CFIA has to maintain its capacity & expertise in seed crop inspection
  • There is a risk of conflict of interest
  • It should be consistent across Canada

Using biochemical and molecular techniques (BMTs) in supporting seed certification

Common themes among the 200 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • BMTs should not be put into the regulations but remain as optional tools to support the current crop inspection system
  • Acceptable standards would need to be developed with particular attention on the development of any international standards
    • Canada must take into account what other countries are doing and how they are using BMTs
  • It will be important to understand the associated costs with BMTs including unintended consequences of using genetic purity as a standard
  • Concerns around confidentiality, intellectual property and who decides on the methodologies must be addressed

Removing the prescriptive portions of Part IV of the Seeds Regulations and using Incorporation by Reference for this information

Common themes among the 155 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Any changes to seed establishment regulations should be carefully considered through the open, transparent process provided by the Canada Gazette
  • Support for incorporation by reference as long as the CFIA continues to have oversight
  • Changes must be upfront and open for all stakeholders
  • The CFIA must "hold the pen" and consult with all members of the value chain prior to changes being implemented in an incorporation by reference document

Removing Schedule I (Grade Tables) from the Seeds Regulations and using Incorporation by Reference

Common themes among the 147 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • Concerns about accessibility of the incorporation by reference (IBR) document
  • Support for IBR as long as the CFIA remains in control of the reference documents
  • Changes to grade tables need to be carefully considered through the Canada Gazette process, which is more transparent and open than the IBR process
    • There is a concern that consultation on changes for an IBR document will not be broad enough
  • Farmers must be part of the consultation process for changes to the grade tables

For mixtures, requiring all components to be tested for purity and germination before mixing such that they meet their single component standard, but also requiring the final product to meet the standards in the appropriate mixture Grade Table

  • The CFIA did not provide an option for respondents to provide additional comments on this recommendation

Allowing different varieties of pedigreed seed of a single crop kind to be mixed as a varietal blend and allow them to be identified using a Canada pedigreed grade name

Common themes among the 137 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

  • The question is not clear as to how pedigreed grade names could be allowed on blends if varietal blend standards were eliminated
  • More information is needed
  • Provided all seed certification and conditioning regulations are in place, broadening the scope of varietal blends would promote sustainability and choice for growers
  • As long as there is traceability, there needs to be more information on how this would be labelled

Recommendation not supported

CFIA leading a consultation to modernize the process for applying regional restrictions on the sale of seed, including which crops should have regional restrictions available and the criteria by which these varieties are assessed

Common themes among the 169 additional stakeholder comments received by the CFIA include:

Other feedback

In addition to comments specific to a task team recommendation, stakeholders were also able to provide general feedback for SEED-RM in each life cycle stage.

Common themes for feedback received within scope of this consultation and SEED-RM include:

Common themes for feedback received within scope of SEED-RM that will be captured in a future consultation include:

Feedback received outside the scope of SEED-RM include:

Next steps

The CFIA thanks everyone who participated in the consultation process. The CFIA will consider all input when developing proposed options for amending the Seeds Regulations. The CFIA anticipates consulting on seed regulatory modernization proposals and recommendations in Winter 2024. Proposed amendments will be published in Canada Gazette, Part I to allow for formal input on amendments to the Seeds Regulations before they are finalized.

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