Publisher's Message -
Germination, November 2006
This fall, I
heard Brian Tischler, President of the
Canadian Canola Growers Association,
tell the crop protection sector that he and other farmers are
not their customers. He wasn’t saying he would no longer be
using the products supplied by life science companies; rather he
was trying to explain that they need to look past the farmer to
end-users as the customer. Certainly it has been de rigueur
in the seed sector to be talking about end use traits for years
now. The tougher question is: are we living up to the promise?
meaningful ways, the answer is “yes”. There are varieties
geared to ethanol production, soybeans for tofu, wheat for
crackers, tomatoes for soup, canola full of good fats. Exciting
developments to be sure. It has helped retain marketshare and
created some value chains with benefits for the seed sector and
is more to be done to live up to the promise of focusing on
consumers. If the seed industry really means to deliver value
to processors, farmers, and the seed sector itself, it will take
End Use Traits –
Long-awaited, the next wave of traits is supposed to be focused
less on agronomic traits and more on consumer needs like
functional foods. It seems more likely that drought and
salinity tolerance are around the corner rather than
extra-nutritious foods or pharmacological traits.
Registrations in Key Markets –
When those end use traits are introduced, they need registration
in key markets. Investing in seed for processing means ensuring
the final product can be shipped widely. For GM innovations,
this is a tremendous cost, but many other innovations will also
need food, feed, environmental, or even drug registrations.
Registrations with Key Companies
– On top of national registrations in key markets, seed
companies must talk to important food processing and retail
organizations. Many of the world’s largest food businesses have
their own standards for the products they market. These
standards may be just as important to delivering products to
consumers as national registrations.
Engage the End User – The
seed sector needs to do more to get into the boardrooms of the
large food processing and manufacturing companies. If the
processors don’t know about the value of genetic purity and
specialty traits, you can be certain consumers won’t.
Sell Product to Consumers –
The Council on Biotech Information has done work to reach out to
the consumer level but, on the whole, the large seed sector
players do not sell the value of specialty products to a larger
consumer audience. When you look at the organics sector, the
vegetable business, and the functional food industry elsewhere,
the seed sector works with processors to talk about the value of
traits and specific products.
If we want to
shoot toward higher value seed and crops by providing
specialized products, then we must aim more closely at the goal.