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Agricultural Innovation

It Starts with a Seed

Dave Carey

Dave Carey

Executive Director, Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA)

Take a minute to consider the small but mighty seed. When you think about Canadian agriculture, it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but nine out of ten bites of food start with the planting of a seed. The food we eat, the feed for livestock, even some of the fuel in our cars — all of these and more can be traced back to a seed being planted. The more investments we make in seed improvements, the more positive effects there will be on the economy, the environment, and our overall quality of life. Seed is the key component that powers the agricultural value chain and delivers innovation to farmers.

The seeds planted today have been improved over centuries through research, development, and evolving scientific techniques. Plant breeding often starts with a need for improvement, such as better taste, enhanced nutrition, different size, or the ability to withstand disease.

Seed is the vital first link in the entire agriculture and agri-food industry, contributing over $6 billion to the economy.

 Seed improvements can result in:

  • Produce that’s healthier, better tasting, and more nutritious;
  • A wider variety of food to give consumers more choice;
  • Innovations to help farmers grow successfully, like mildew-resistant spinach and drought-tolerant corn;
  • Less food waste because of new varieties that stay fresh longer;
  • Plants that reduce soil erosion and use water more efficiently;
  • More food and feed produced from the same land, like grasses and grains used for feeding cattle.

Modern scientific breeding methods have become much more precise. Plant breeders can identify a variety of combinations with desirable characteristics and then work with specific genes in the plant to enhance or minimize certain qualities. Without researchers’ efforts, crops could be ruined by insects, drought, or excessive rain.

Plant breeding research requires major resources, with an average of 10 years and at least $1 million to develop one new cereal variety. Right now, private sector investment is leading the way. Seed companies invested $171 million in research and development in 2017. Putting money into plant breeding is proven to be an excellent investment, with an average return of seven to one. That’s $7 for every $1 spent. The seed industry needs a regulatory and intellectual property environment that encourages investment in innovation so that farmers can access the best products.

Plant breeding has existed since the beginning of agriculture and can be credited with helping to feed an expanding population — and we’re not done growing yet. It’s an exciting time in the seed industry, with planned opportunities for regulatory modernization and an increased recognition of the role of innovation in agriculture. Our mission at the Canadian Seed Trade Association is to foster seed industry innovation and trade. The way we see it, better seed equates to better life.

What is the Canadian Seed Trade Association?

The Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) represents more than 130 members engaged in all aspects of seed research, production, marketing, and international trade. CSTA’s members are proud contributors to our nation’s economy and to the health and well-being of Canadian consumers. Seed is the vital first link in the entire agriculture and agri-food industry, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing over 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $640 million annually.

To learn more, visit the CTSA and follow them on Twitter @SeedInnovation.

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