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Innovation in Agriculture: The Key to Feeding a Growing Population

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About the Study

Why did the Senate Agriculture Committee take on a study about innovation and research efforts in the agriculture and agri-food sector?

In recent years, the agricultural sector has faced major changes yet again. The public has become increasingly concerned about the use of our natural resources and the possible damaging impact of human activities on the environment. Society is also seeking to ensure the well-being of current and future generations. Consequently, people expect the agriculture and agri-food sector to feed the population with healthy and nutritious food available at reasonable prices while responding to demographic, environmental and economic issues. Once again, farmers are being called on to adapt to changes and meet society’s needs with little recognition. The success of the agriculture industry is related to its acceptance of innovation and its ability to adapt to changing pressures. Now, with increasing pressure to produce more with less in a sustainable manner, the importance of innovation is even greater. This is why the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry chose to study this important topic.

What are the challenges facing the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector?

The Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector are confronted with such issues as societal change, global population growth, an ageing farming population, access to limited natural resources, climate change, and economic issues related to grain prices, exchange rate and increasing competition at the international level.

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Canadian stakeholders are aware of the importance of better managing this resource that is why they are recycling water and are investing in biotechnology and advanced plant breeding to make plants more resistant to drought and water stress.

How does innovation help the agriculture and agri-food sector?

Innovation is really about responding to change in a creative way. Innovation can result from the transformation of knowledge, a new idea or a technological breakthrough to improve or create new business or manufacturing products, services or processes. Innovation must also create added value.

Innovation is a driving force for the development of the agriculture and agri-food sector. There have been technological breakthroughs with respect to sustainable development, the improvement of agricultural productivity and competitiveness, maintaining and expanding markets, traceability as well as food quality, safety and diversity.

Given that the Canadian market is relatively small and the country’s productive capacity is relatively large, the international market plays an important role in the sector’s profitability.

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What did the Committee discover?

There is a need for continued efforts to ensure that the agriculture and agri-food sector can greatly benefit from science and innovation. Efforts must focus on strengthening and enhancing the regulatory framework with respect to the approval process for new products, animal health, intellectual property and nanotechnology. It is also important that the Government of Canada provides continued support measures, strengthens collaborations and partnerships between the various stakeholders, seeks for harmonization of its regulatory framework at the international level, and pursues the elimination of non-tariff barriers. This study also enabled the Committee to highlight the need to improve training for farmers and public awareness of agricultural issues.

Senators who participated in this study

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Percy Mockler
C - (New Brunswick)

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Deputy Chair
Terry M. Mercer
Lib. - (Northend Halifax - Nova Scotia)

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Jean-Guy Dagenais
C - (Victoria - Quebec)

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Nicole Eaton
C - (Ontario)

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Ghislain Maltais
C - (Shawinegan - Quebec)

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Pana Merchant
Lib. - (Saskatchewan)

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Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie
C - (Annapolis Valley - Hants - Nova Scotia)

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Victor Oh
C - (Mississauga - Ontario)

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Fernand Robichaud, P.C.
Lib. - (New Brunswick)

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Claudette Tardif
Lib. - (Alberta)

The committee would like to recognize the following Honorable Senators who are no longer serving members of the committee whose contribution to the study was invaluable:

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JoAnne L. Buth
C - (Manitoba)

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Catherine S. Callbeck
Lib. - (Prince Edward Island)

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Donald Neil Plett
C - (Manitoba - Landmark)

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Michel Rivard
C - (The Laurentides - Quebec)

Ex-officio members of the committee:
The Honourable Senators Claude Carignan, P.C. (or Yonah Martin) and James S. Cowan (or Joan Fraser)

Other Senators who have participated from time to time in the study:
The Honourable Senators Baker, P.C., Batters, Black, Braley, Callbeck, Campbell, Champagne, P.C., Chaput, Cordy, Demers, Enverga Jr., Finley, Fortin-Duplessis, Fairbairn, P.C., Frum, Hubley, Mahovlich, Manning, Martin, Munson, Nolin, Peterson, Segal, Seth, Smith (Saurel), Stewart Olsen, Stratton, Tkachuk, Verner, P.C., Wallace and White.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362


Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A4