CropLife report highlights importance of crop protection and biotechnology

The group says it’s ready to make the case for the value and economic contribution 
of the industry’s technology to the country

CropLife Canada’s Ted Menzies says a recent report the group commissioned quantifies the value of biotechnology and crop protection products.

CropLife Canada wants to talk about the value of crop protection products and plant biotechnology.

To this end it’s commissioned a report examining how much the industry contributes to the country by the consultancy RIAS.

Ted Menzies, president of CropLife, says his organization is looking for venues and opportunities to discuss the information contained in the report. It’s also important information for the agri-food sector to have in any discussions on social licence and public trust.

The report contains plenty of numbers about the value of pest controls and modern plant breeding in supporting sustainable agriculture.

“Without plant science innovations, Canadians could pay about 55 per cent more for their food,” the report says. “On an annual basis, it is estimated that the average Canadian household saves more than $4,400 on their food bill, for a total of over $60 billion in savings on food expenditures for all Canadians each year.”

The innovations also “generate more than 111,000 jobs and $8.3 billion in additional agricultural output in Canada. This increased output from plant science innovations also accounts for 71 per cent of Canada’s positive trade balance in crops.”

Farmers earn an additional $7.1 billion through additional yields and higher-quality products. About $353 million of that is in the value of fruit crops, $434 million in potatoes and $435 million in other vegetable crops.

“Overall, the increased agricultural output from plant science innovations generates more than $7.5 billion in GDP for Canada, which is comprised of $4 billion in added value by Canadian farmers, and $3.5 billion in added value from increased business for suppliers to Canadian farmers.”

Plant science has also played a critical role in improving sustainable agricultural practices “by way of reducing the amount of tillage, soil erosion, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improving biodiversity and preserving large tracts of forest, native grass and wetlands.”

Job creator

The report says that plant science companies spend $230 million annually on research and development in Canada, generating about 4,000 high-value, science-based jobs for Canadians. The total economic impact from manufacturing and production of plant science products accounts for over $1 billion in added value to Canada’s economy, 9,000 jobs and $467 million in income for Canadian workers.

Without plant science innovations, Canada would need 50 per cent more farmland to produce the same level of crop production, the report notes. As a result, more than 14.2 million hectares (35.1 million acres) of forest, native grass and wetlands have been preserved. That’s about the total area of crops grown in Saskatchewan or four times that of Ontario. The productivity gains for Canada have been greatest in field crops such as canola, wheat, soybeans and corn.

“Modern plant-breeding technologies such as drought and salinity tolerance are expected to further alleviate the pressure to convert high biodiversity areas into agricultural use, and plants with increased nitrogen-use efficiency are also under development that reduce run-off of nitrogen fertilizer, which will help to protect wildlife habitats and water quality.”

The innovations have “improved agricultural practices, resulting in significant reductions in soil erosion and improved soil quality across a range of crops in Canada.”

Examples are no-till farming which conserves water and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. “The use of plant science innovations has also resulted in 126 million to 194 million less litres of diesel fuel burned on farm each year owing to reduced tillage and reductions in the number of equipment passes on land, reducing GHG emissions by about 450,000 to 700,000 tonnes per year.”

Overall, the total annual GHG reduction from the use of plant science innovations in agriculture is estimated to be 29 million tonnes per year. This represents four per cent of the 726 million tonnes in total GHG emissions for Canada in 2013. “While Canada’s total GHG emissions have climbed by 3.8 per cent since 2009, continued adoption of plant science innovations in the future will enable farmers to further reduce GHG emissions in the agriculture sector to help offset potential increases in other sectors of Canada’s economy,” the report says.

Canada needs to develop new crop varieties for a changing climate. “Modern plant-breeding techniques are being used to speed the process for developing new plant varieties that will better withstand drought conditions, and contribute to even greater sequestration of CO2 and lower CO2 emissions by reducing tillage, conserving soil and moisture.”

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