Working Toward Better Seed Testing

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Meeting the industry’s future needs for quality seed testing services is the major goal of the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada.

Gail Livingstone doesn’t mince words when it comes to speculating about the future of the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), a group she’s been a part of for a half-century.

Now 75, Livingstone recently retired after operating her own seed testing lab for many years. When she joined CSAAC in the 1960s, she was one of the youngest members of the organization. When she retired, she considered herself one of the oldest.

CSAAC represents commercial seed analysts across the country.

“I think whatever changes come will be something CSAAC just has to do to maintain the association and keep all the analysts informed so they can do their job,” she says.

But, she adds, after having been around for nearly 75 years as an association, CSAAC is a resilient group able to weather whatever storms come its way.

“I can’t see anything major in the future that’s going to be a big problem for them to adjust to. They’re just going to have to tackle whatever comes along and find ways to deal with it.”

Livingstone’s frankness comes from decades of dealing with a multitude of changes within the seed sector, especially in the realm of government oversight, which has ramped up over the years. She notes that quality standards have increased — which she acknowledges is a good thing — but that means more bureaucracy and red tape for already busy analysts to wade through.

“Today’s analysts are policed very thoroughly. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of forced progression as government has become more involved in the process.”

All CFIA-accredited seed labs are given proficiency testing samples twice a year that they must test and send back to CFIA. They must meet minimum requirements in order to maintain their lab’s accreditation.

Analysts are required to continue their education and ensure they have the latest knowledge needed to do their jobs. That differs from CFIA-accredited seed graders, CSAAC executive director Krista Erickson notes, who aren’t subject to the same requirements — something she refers to as a “two-tiered” system of seed testing.

“Graders are monitored during Canadian Seed Institute audits and during interval monitoring of bulk storage facilities and approved conditioners. We as analysts are more conscientious of quality and have greater knowledge because of the proficiency monitoring frequency in addition to lab audits,” Erickson says.

“The importance of seed testing with accredited labs and CSAAC analysts guarantees high analytical standards versus getting seed quality data such as grading from those with less regulatory and professional association oversight.”

CSAAC continues to evolve as time goes on, Erickson notes. The industry is moving forward faster than ever, and analysts need to know everything they can in order to be able to answer questions from their clients in regard to import/export, seed identification, seed testing rules and quality assurance.

“We need to stay on top of all these things. The biggest challenges for our members are probably the costs associated with running an accredited lab, training analysts and keeping them in the industry and having them make it their career,” Erickson says.

Both Erickson and Livingstone are confident the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project will strengthen CSAAC’s place within the industry.

“It will foster a greater understanding of our profession and help us work toward testing that better meets the industry’s needs,” Erickson says, adding Seed Synergy will help CSAAC better understand challenges faced by the industry’s other five associations.

“I do feel it should enable the key associations involved to understand one another better, and understand their concerns and solve major issues all these groups have now or will experience in the future,” Livingstone adds.

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