Agricultural innovation in plant biotechnology necessary

Innovation is key to keeping Canada’s agricultural sector strong and science-based regulatory systems ensure that such innovations are safe for human health and the environment.

Innovations derived through modern plant breeding help farmers, are good for the environment and they deliver tangible benefits to consumers by way of lower food costs. Agricultural innovation, including plant biotechnology, has played a strong role in that success.

Farmers across Canada and around the world are rapidly accepting new GM traits because they help control threats to productivity such as weeds, insects and disease. These genetically enhanced crops can also reduce or eliminate the need for farmers to plow the land to control weeds, which significantly enriches soil and reduces erosion.

A report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) found that Canadian farmers continue to choose to plant genetically modified crops because of the benefits they see in terms of improved yields and quality and environmental sustainability. In 2012, close to 29 million acres of biotech crops were planted in Canada.

Canada isn’t alone in adopting this technology. Millions of farmers in 28 countries around the world planted biotech crops in 2012. The global area of biotech crops has increased one hundredfold since they were first commercialized in 1996 making it the fastest-adopted technology in recent history.

Unfortunately, many longtime opponents continue to ignore the many benefits of new technologies. Instead, they continue to use the same, false and fear-based messages to try and convince Canadians that these technologies are somehow bad.

Protests that took place across the country were nothing more than a special-interest group trying to get attention to support their fundraising than about any real health concerns.

The truth is that Canada is well known for its exceptional science-based regulatory system and for ensuring that human health, environmental consideration and livestock feed safety are all considered before any new crop is authorized in Canada.

In addition, the industry has a long history of ensuring its products are properly managed throughout their entire life cycle, which includes the developing best management practices to address concerns such as the ability of various farming operations to coexist.

In the case of genetically modified alfalfa, all that would be required to ensure that conventional and organic farms can coexist is for farmers to harvest the plant before it flowers. No pollen, no seed, no problem.

The reality is, that regardless of the innovation, these same groups would have protested. They continually overkill the proven benefits of modern agriculture and we expect they always will.

Such a shame, really, when one considers that growing food demands mean that innovations in agriculture are more important now than ever before.

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