Comment: Seed growers — wake up!

Producer voice must be heard in this month’s Seed Synergy vote

Large multinationals are counting on seed and commercial growers skimming headlines and staying on the sidelines.

The Seed Synergy groups that want to merge their organizations into a new “Seeds Canada‚” The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA), Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), Canadian Seed Institute (CSI), Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA) “were encouraged to see a mere 90 seed growers out of 3,300 total on the virtual Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) annual general meeting July 7.

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Apparently, some are buying in to the one-sided pro-Seeds Canada propaganda published, but the fine print is there, and very evident that this is a pro-multinational proposal.

A quick internet search points to individuals sitting on seed grower-associated boards who are also leaders in organizations that represent the large multinationals, and who have publicly stated support for “Seed Synergy” and/or “value creation.”

Governance on the new merged “Seeds Canada” organization will be stacked against the seed grower. Only one board seat out of 15 is guaranteed for a seed grower’ yet seed growers are the most numerous and important pieces of the seed industry.

If regional seed grower seats are not filled, seed company representatives will fill them.

Additionally, proponents have made sure to cut the membership out of the nomination process by inserting a board-appointed nomination committee able to screen those who run. All of these measures have been baked in to minimize seed growers’ say in Seeds Canada.

Make no mistake, it’s the same powerful interconnected players at the top who are pushing for “Seed Synergy” and also pushing for farmers to pay royalties on farm-saved seed (“value creation”), defunding public breeding institutions and devaluing the Canadian Grain Commission — all during a growing season and global pandemic.

Many growers, along with the wheat and barley commissions, have expressed concern about these proposals. In spite of farmer opposition to “value creation,” the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) and the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA) — some of the Seeds Canada proponents mentioned above — went ahead and announced a Seed Variety Use Agreement (SVUA) pilot program anyways.

If the Seeds Canada scheme is not voted down, it will be the beginning of the end of a very successful public breeding system that returns $11 for every dollar of investment, the extinction of independent seed growers as we know them, the end of farmer-interest quality control, and a move to hand big business corporations ownership of the very seed that our livelihoods depend on.

Seed growers — you are the majority and the writing is urgently on the wall. Show up online at investorvote.com and vote using your CSGA-mailed voting card by Aug. 26 or during the Special General Meeting Aug 27.

Lyndon Stoll is a seed grower and professional agrologist based in west-central Saskatchewan.

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