FORWARD MOMENTUM REQUIRES COMPETITIVE CROPS
BY ERIN K. GOWRILUK • PHOTO BY PIXABAY
One of the things I love most about my job is to witness the success stories that propel our industry forward. Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent success stories is the advancements of plant breeding innovation within our very own, world-leading research sector.
It is truly an amazing time to observe plant breeders safely and relatively quickly create new crop varieties that meet the health, safety and functional needs of end-users but are also adapted to specific geographical environments. Tools such as gene editing help farmers adapt to climate change and pest pressures while they continue to grow safe, high-quality, affordable food for consumers in Canada and around the world.
Advancements in plant breeding and new crop varieties are the backbone of our industry. These new varieties are the reason today’s farmers can grow more with fewer resources while also sustaining our soils.
However, Canada’s ag research sector is now being significantly hindered by unnecessary regulatory and social barriers. This has long been a major issue for our industry and has been a central advocacy focus for the Grain Growers of Canada, but it has become more critical than ever for several reasons.
Modern plant technology such as gene-edited crops will be even more important in the decades to come as farmers are required to grow more food to feed a rapidly expanding global population while meeting climate change goals. Farmers continue to contribute to Canada’s economy through its post-COVID recovery and beyond.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency held public consultations on national seed regulations. Around the same time, Health Canada launched consultations focused on
plant breeding and new regulatory guidance for novel foods. The outcomes of these initiatives will have a significant impact on the future of plant breeding in Canada.
For these reasons, Canada’s agriculture industry is falling seriously behind global trade rivals in the area of competitiveness. Many of the major food producing countries have already adopted clear and predictable science-based approaches to the regulation of plant breeding, including gene-edited crops, or are moving in this direction. If we don’t quickly follow suit our farmers will suffer.
GGC has long advocated on behalf of Canadian grain farmers on this issue. It has encouraged the Canadian government to stand firmly behind the proven safety of plant breeding innovation and to enforce clear and predictable regulatory pathways in this area.
But, as always, this message carries more weight when it comes from us and you, the farmer. This is why we ask farmers to collectively speak up and encourage good government policy at this critical time. We’ve tried to make this an easy process: simply visit advancingagriculture.ca to add your name to a list of industry members who advocate for our sector. You can also send your own letter to Health Canada in support of fair and reasonable rules for plant breeding innovation in Canada.
The advance of plant technology within Canadian agriculture has been a major success story. Let’s make sure growth and innovation continue and Canadian farmers are not left behind.
Erin K. Gowriluk is the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada.