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What we heard report – Plant health science mobilization plan

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Introduction

The Plant and Animal Health Strategy (PAHS) for Canada charts a path for strengthening plant health protection efforts in the country. One area for action is to develop a plant health research strategy founded in prevention and mitigation. The Plant Health Science Mobilization Plan (PHSMP) outlines goals and activities to support science and research deliverables under the PAHS through:

The first notion for the PHSMP came from university and government representatives in 2018 who identified the need to strengthen Canada's current plant health science system. From 2019 to 2020, experts and stakeholders came together through presentations, a targeted federal workshop, and online public consultation to further refine the plan. The resulting vision and goal-oriented framework will help develop a roadmap that will strengthen Canada's position within plant health science on the global stage.

This report consolidates and summarizes the comments received on the PHSMP and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s response to those comments.

The CFIA would like to thank everyone who participated in the consultation for contributing their time to the consultation process and sharing their views.

Overview of engagement process

Objective

Receive feedback from plant health scientists and the public to make sure that all stakeholders feel represented.

Approach

The CFIA launched an online consultation to seek feedback that was then used to refine the content of the PHSMP. To support the consultation process, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)'s Science Policy and Partnerships Division led 13 feedback sessions and 2 presentations with their Branch Implementation and Human Resources Committee.

Timeline

The consultation on the PHSMP ran from September 21, 2020 to November 20, 2020.

Feedback requested

Comments and ideas on 3 key elements of the PHSMP:

  1. How the proposed goals align with the future of plant health science in Canada
  2. Specific opportunities that may support the desired goals
  3. How participants saw themselves and/or their organization contributing to the vision

Who we heard from

The target audience for this consultation included the plant health science community (government, scholars, industry and members of the public). Participants who provided feedback included:

What we heard

Overall, respondents welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on the PHSMP. Views are organized by themes and specific to goals, which are summarized below.

Overarching feedback themes

Scope

Participants agreed that the goals of the PHSMP provide a strong basis for mobilizing the plant health science community in Canada. Many confirmed the need to better coordinate research partnerships and resources through a shared vision and set of priorities. Some participants expressed that the plan was very broad which could make successful results more difficult to achieve. One participant suggested adding a sociology aspect to consider when translating research solutions into action.

Action

In 2021, the CFIA launched the development of the Canadian Plant Health Information System (CPHIS) which will provide new online tools to improve information sharing and collaboration within the plant health science community. The CPHIS will be an important resource for supporting objectives of the PHSMP, including the coordination of dispersed resources and the application of science into decision-making.

In 2022, the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) released the report titled Cultivating Diversity. The report provides a comprehensive review of the key risks to plant health in Canada, and strategies to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. The outcomes of this report will provide a strong basis for aligning priorities among plant health protection partners in Canada.

Definition of plant health

The original definition put significant emphasis on quarantine pests. Participants felt that the PHSMP should re-define plant health as many of  these issues in Canada are domestic in nature. A broader definition of plant health throughout the PHSMP would better reflect this and resonate with all stakeholders.

Action

The CFIA edited the definitions of 'Plant Health' and 'Pest' in footnotes of the PHSMP to become more all-encompassing.

Sustained funding

Some participants commented that the PHSMP was vague on available funding sources. This made it difficult to envision how the different stakeholders will come together to make sure that the PHSMP is a success. National-scale research is better supported through sustained funding which many existing or annual research programs do not offer.

Action

AAFC is leading the development of the Next Policy Framework (NPF) which is a 5-year (2023 to 2028) investment by federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments to strengthen Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector. It will replace the Canadian Agricultural Partnership which ends March 31, 2023. The NPF will be developed through consultations with various stakeholders to seek feedback on challenges and opportunities facing the sector. The CFIA and AAFC will explore options to support national-scale plant health research through this initiative.

Feedback specific to goals

Goal 1: Increased awareness, training and action

Participants promoted the importance of:

Action

The CFIA incorporated these elements within the PHSMP under potential opportunities for this goal.

Goal 2: Biovigilance approach

Some participants recommended clarifying the definition of biovigilance. This would include where and how pest management and surveillance fit into the approach. Other feedback emphasized the importance of infrastructure (for example, working groups, collaboration, networks, expertise, resources) for maintaining national-scale projects.

Action

In 2021, AAFC and CFIA created an internal working group to refine the definition and develop the basis for a biovigilance framework. AAFC has since initiated discussions with provincial stakeholders to advance the concept and promote a national approach in the future.

The CFIA updated the definition of biovigilance in the PHSMP based on the newly formed definition. The CFIA also added The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network and Indigenous Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative as examples of existing frameworks with successful aspects from which to build on.

Goal 3: Evidence-based decision-making

Participants acknowledged that the PHSMP should develop data sharing capacity across Canadian institutions and with international partners. This is essential to capture the full potential of proactive, evidence-based decisions. The CFIA also received feedback on the need for client-based engagement to get tools to industry/farmers/growers. The PHSMP should convey plant health information to diverse stakeholders for decision-making. Understanding  the barriers, enablers, drivers and constraints to evidence-based decision-making  is crucial to adopt new science and technology. This should be done in the context of policy, regulations or crop production practices. Participants also emphasized the importance of coordinated priority setting and collective actions.

Action

The CFIA added an objective under this goal to discuss the need for understanding barriers, enablers, drivers and constraints. The CFIA also added Natural Resources Canada's National Research Agenda (2019 to 2029) as an example of how to coordinate priority setting and action.

The CPHIS that is currently under development at CFIA will greatly improve data sharing among Canadian authorities and industry, to ensure information is accessible for evidence-based decision-making.

Lessons learned

Next steps

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