Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 6 - Evidence - Meeting of November 24, 2011
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 24, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
8:05 a.m. to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the
agricultural sector (topic: Innovation in the agriculture and agri-food sector
from the producers' perspective).
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I would like to welcome honourables senators and witnesses
to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
Before I ask senators to introduce themselves, I would like to take the
opportunity this morning to share with the Library of Parliament analyst and
also the clerk that Senator Ogilvie and I were at a breakfast meeting, called
the Bacon and Eggheads group of scientists — Senator Ogilvie could give more
details on it — and the lead person this morning was Dr. Sophie D'Amours from
Université Laval. She is a lead scientist and engineer who is well known in the
She gave me a comment on our last report that was tabled in the Senate,
called The Canadian Forest Sector: A Future Based on Innovation. She
acknowledged that she uses our report in both languages, so it is a testament to
a job well done. She said that it was well documented and her researchers are
using it at the university and criss-crossing Canada when it comes to looking at
the future of the forest industry in North America, looking at Canada.
That said, this morning it is agriculture and there is no doubt in my mind,
with the witnesses that we have this morning and the future witnesses, that we
will table a report to the Senate that will certainly be a complement to what we
have in the industry in agriculture, and as good as the previous report we made
to the Senate.
Thank you all for accepting our invitation.
My name is Percy Mockler. I am a senator from New Brunswick and chair of the
committee. I would now ask members of the committee to introduce themselves.
Senator Robichaud: Good morning, I am Senator Robichaud from
Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.
Senator Hubley: Senator Hubley from Prince Edward Island.
Senator Fairbairn: Senator Fairbairn from Lethbridge, Alberta.
Senator Plett: Senator Plett from Manitoba.
Senator Ogilvie: Senator Ogilvie from Nova Scotia.
Senator Eaton: Senator Eaton from Ontario.
Senator Rivard: I am Senator Michel Rivard from Les Laurentides,
The Chair: Our committee will continue its examination of research and
innovation efforts in the agricultural sector.
Today, we are focusing on understanding innovation in the agriculture and
agri-food sector from the producers' perspective.
This morning, we welcome Mr. Dennis Prouse, Vice President, Government
We also have Kristian Stephens, Senior Manager, Technical Affairs of the
Canadian Fertilizer Institute. Canada supplies approximately 12 per cent of the
world's fertilizer materials. I would like to take this opportunity to
officially recognize Mr. Stephens and Mr. Prouse. Thank you for accepting our
Dennis Prouse, Vice President, Government Affairs, CropLife Canada: It
is a pleasure for me to be here today. As the chair indicated, my name is Dennis
Prouse and I am Vice President of Government Affairs at CropLife Canada.
CropLife is the trade association for developers, manufacturers and distributors
of crop protection products and plant biotechnology. These are the tools that
help keep Canada's agriculture industry competitive and sustainable. They help
ensure Canadians enjoy a high standard of living by delivering an affordable
supply of safe and healthy food.
Without pesticides and plant biotechnology, Canadian farmers and the economy
would suffer enormous losses.
Crop quality and yield increases resulting from pesticides and plant biotech
lead to direct gains for farmers of about $7.9 billion annually in Canada.
The increased yield from crop protection products and plant biotech benefit
the average Canadian, especially at the grocery store. The benefits of our
technologies save Canadian families almost 60 per cent at the checkout counter.
Innovations in plant science technologies do not just boost agricultural
productivity, but do so in a sustainable way. If Canadian farmers did not use
pesticides and plant biotech they would have to cultivate 37 million more acres
of land to produce what they do today. That is about equal to all of the cropped
acreage in Saskatchewan.
Canada's world renowned regulatory system ensures that Canadian farmers have
access to the latest innovations in technology.
Both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency do excellent work
keeping Canadians and the environment safe. They are well respected
internationally, largely because the Canadian system is predictable, science-
based, and focused on health and safety as top priorities. However, here at home
Canadians know very little about the regulation of pesticides and plant
biotechnology, and their respective contribution to food security in Canada and
around the world. We think this is unfortunate.
In order to give Canadians confidence in the regulation of the products that
will inevitably be needed — to feed the world and protect the environment — more
needs to be done to educate the public about the good work our government does
on their behalf.
We commend the federal government for its recent movement in this regard and
are hopeful that Canadians will continue to receive information designed to
educate them about the high calibre of Canada's science-based regulatory system.
However, our first request is that more be done on this front.
If innovation is to truly flourish in Canada, governments need to help
Canadians understand the benefits of technology and the systems in place to
ensure these technologies are safe. When required, governments need to defend
the rigours of their regulatory system.
Without this fundamental support, some of the most beneficial innovations in
any range of sectors could easily wither on the vine simply for lack of public
Imagine if this had been the case when canola was in its infancy. Canola is
now an industry valued at $14 billion annually. It is a huge Canadian success
story, due in no small part to the pro-innovation foundation upon which it was
This challenge of putting innovation in context for the average person goes
well beyond federal government communications. Here in Canada there has been a
worrying trend of provincial and municipal governments undermining the
credibility of the federal government. Such an environment is untenable for
industries like ours.
Each new plant biotechnology and pesticide innovation requires a financial
investment of between $100 million and $256 million as well as more than 10
years to bring to market.
Given the size of the investment, I am sure you can appreciate our industry
must be prudent about where it invests.
Unless our industry continues to invest in Canada, Canadian producers cannot
possibly hope to compete with farmers in other countries where science-based
regulations are respected and upheld. We encourage this committee to defend the
science-based regulations and communicate with the public about the importance
We would also like to see Canada champion a more integrated and harmonized
international approval system for our technologies. Our belief is that much
could be accomplished by opening up the approval process to recognize the work
of, and decisions by, other countries committed to science-based regulations.
In this way, we more efficiently and expeditiously offer Canadian farmers not
only access to the latest tools, but deliver better market access without
compromising the safety or integrity of international regulatory systems.
We believe pest control products and plant biotechnology can continue to play
a pivotal and transforming role for Canada and the competitiveness of Canadian
farmers. We also believe the extent to which that potential will be realized
will be determined by the decisions made and actions taken within Growing
Farmers are facing extraordinary challenges: a ballooning world population,
climate change and water scarcity, to name a few. These challenges demand modern
solutions including drought and salt-tolerant crops, better disease control,
better nitrogen utilization and foods with improved nutritional content. There
is no doubt that advances in plant science technologies will continue to yield
solutions to some of the world's greatest challenges. Rest assured our member
companies are working on it. Canada's plant science industry supports an
agriculture sector that is resilient, competitive and sustainable. Our
commitment to sustainability goes back several decades. As an industry, we have
long been committed to full life cycle stewardship practices. The best known of
these programs are our container obsolete pesticides and empty container
recycling programs, which are currently run by our sister organization,
Add to that the research into technologies that will increase on-farm
sustainability through things such as improved nitrogen utilization varieties of
corn and canola, and it becomes clear that for our industry sustainability is
much more than a buzzword; it is a long-term commitment for us.
By improving the ability of crops to use nitrogen, we reduce the amount of
money farmers pay for fertilizer, amount of gas they burn applying it, and at
the same time increase their profitability.
Our industry also continues to refine our pest control products so use rates
can continue to be reduced and applications can become more targeted. Our
industry is optimistic about the ability of Growing Forward 2 to develop a
forward-thinking and enabling environment in which agricultural innovations can
flourish. We note that recently the government has made significant progress on
important agricultural policy areas such as low-level presence and market
access. We are encouraged by Minister Ritz's emphasis on science at recent
Cairns Group meetings. We look forward to being part of a dynamic, innovative
and highly competitive Canadian agricultural sector that works to benefit
Canadians and the world around us. I appreciate your time today and am happy to
answer any questions you may have.
Kristian Stephens, Senior Manager, Technical Affairs, Canadian Fertilizer
Institute: Good morning, senators. My name is Kristian Stephens and I am
Senior Manager of Technical Affairs for the Canadian Fertilizer Institute. I
want to thank the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for the
invitation to speak about agriculture research and innovation in Canada. I am
here today to speak on ways that farmers can be more innovative in their use of
fertilizers to protect the environment and increase their profits. The 4R
Nutrient Stewardship system is the innovative approach to deliver these goals.
The Canadian Fertilizer Institute is an industry association that represents
manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and
sulphur fertilizers. This growing industry contributes over $12 billion annually
to Canada's economy and employs over 12,000 Canadians. This strong and
competitive sector is widely viewed as a world leader.
Simply put, fertilizer is food for plants. Fertilizer is responsible for
nearly half of the world's food supply and is the most important crop input used
by Canadian farmers. Canada's fertilizer industry plays an essential role in
ensuring that the world's food needs can be met economically and sustainably.
Our industry is science based and committed to agricultural research and
innovation to ensure environmental stewardship when fertilizer products are
being used. Sustainability can be achieved by balancing the economic, social and
environmental goals of our stakeholders, including farm groups, researchers,
conservationists, governments, industry members and communities across the
Environmental stewardship and sustainability are not new ideas for our
industry or farmers who have long embraced the principles of best management
practices in their operations. However, as we move forward on the path to
sustainability, it is increasingly important to both demonstrate our success in
measurable ways and to identify areas where we can improve our performance.
The Canadian Fertilizer Institute is working with International Plant
Nutrition Institute scientists, the United States fertilizer industry, crop
advisers, agri-retailers and farmers to improve fertilizer efficiency, to
improve crop yields, and to protect the environment. This work has produced the
4R Nutrient Stewardship initiative. The fertilizer industry is confident that
this is the best method to protect the environment when fertilizers are being
applied, while at the same time improving farm profitability.
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship is an innovative best management practice system
with four key pillars for fertilizer applications. They are: applying at the
right source, the right rate, the right time, at the right place.
This science-based approach helps farmers and the public understand how best
management practices for fertilizer or manure improve farm profitability while
reducing crop nutrient losses into the environment. It helps any farmer improve
the use of fertilizers on their land, create greater crop yields, and does it in
an environmentally sustainable way. The right source means ensuring a balanced
supply of essential plant nutrients, including that granular or liquid
fertilizer or manures is used. The right rate is applying just enough fertilizer
to meet the needs of the crop while accounting for the nutrients already in the
soil. Farmers can use soil tests to identify nutrient shortfalls and then use
global positioning system on their tractors to apply fertilizers at variable
rates throughout a field.
The right time means applying fertilizer when the crop will get the most
benefit and avoiding times when fertilizer can be lost to the environment. For
example, in the fall, soil needs to be at the right temperature to minimize
nutrient losses into the atmosphere.
The right place is where the plants can easily use it and where it is less
likely to be lost to waterways or into the atmosphere. A great example would be
subsurface banding in the soil near the seed rather than surface application. In
other words, farmers may need to establish buffer strips near rivers, lakes or
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship is a flexible, unified approach with all the 4Rs
working together in a nutrient management plan. Proper nutrient management
ensures the farmland and the surrounding environment will remain healthy for the
use of generations well into the future.
Our industry recognizes that every farm and every field is different. That is
why the 4R Nutrient Stewardship initiative promotes the use of experts such as
Certified Crop Advisers, or CCAs. They help farmers to assess soil and
environmental conditions on their individual farms and develop a customized
nutrient management plan that is most suitable to their site-specific needs. The
Canadian Fertilizer Institute is developing Internet-based 4R training courses
for farmers and CCAs so that the 4R principles can be widely adopted at the farm
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship clearly promotes sustainable development as it
provides economic, social and environmental benefits. The 4R Nutrient
Stewardship increases crop yields, sparing land for other uses, and increases or
maintains the organic carbon sequestered in soil, which plays a critical role in
helping to protect the environment.
CFI is also sponsoring 4R research trials in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and
Ontario to demonstrate how to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, which is a
potent greenhouse gas.
CFI has also supported the development of a Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction
Protocol, or NERP, for short, to reduce on-farm emissions of nitrous oxide in a
quantifiable, credible and verifiable way that allows farmers to earn carbon
credits. The NERP is based on the 4R nutrient principles and has been approved
for use in Alberta, which is the first jurisdiction to establish a regulatory
carbon trading market. This innovative Canadian initiative has the potential to
be used throughout Canada and around the world. Farmers have always known the
importance of limiting their impact on the environment, but more can always be
The Canadian fertilizer industry is then asking the Canadian government to
encourage Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to: work in partnership with
provinces, industry, farmers and environmental groups to promote the 4R Nutrient
Stewardship principles and the NERP; and increase funding and support for
agricultural research in soil science to increase the understanding of crop
nutrient efficiency to reduce nutrient losses to the environment and improve
farm economic returns.
Canada's crop producers have a critical role in meeting the world's food
demands and fertilizer is a key ingredient in making that possible. We are
confident that the 4R Nutrient Stewardship is an important tool in meeting
Canada's agricultural and environmental goals.
Thank you again for your time, senators, and I look forward to the
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Stephens.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you, witnesses. This is a very interesting area
of science, technology, and of course an incredibly important outcome,
production of food for humans and animals. I was pleased with some of the
documentation you presented, which actually translates activity into a real
impact on the amount of production, and the amount of production that can be
attributed to deliberate interventions. Those are really important numbers.
I would certainly like to talk to Mr. Stephens longer because, in the
Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, it is fascinating to me to watch the modern
farm tractor proceed around a field on GPS with all the electronic implements
and be able to plant and follow and nurture plants totally in a sophisticated,
I would like to ask two questions to Mr. Prouse. I was struck by the comment
in your document and your presentation where you say here in Canada there has
been a worrying trend of provincial and municipal governments undermining the
credibility of the federal government. Would you be prepared to expand on that a
Mr. Prouse: Certainly. What we have seen is on two items. The first is
pesticides. A number of provinces and municipalities have passed bans on urban
use of pesticides. These pesticides are regulated in the same manner by Health
Canada. These are Health Canada-approved pesticides that have been through the
regulatory process and yet they are banned for urban use.
We think that stigmatizes the use of these products, which are safe and
approved, and now calls into question potentially the safety of the food supply
of Canadians. To be honest, the urban use of pesticides only amounts to about 3
to 4 per cent of our members' business; 96 to 97 per cent is agricultural. We
fight that issue. It is a little bit like a game of Whack-a-Ball, where every
municipality passes a ban. Again, the issue for us is science-based regulation.
Health Canada has approved this. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty,
2,4-D is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It has been studied time
and again, yet it continues to be banned in a non-science way by provincial and
local governments. We would like the federal government to find their voice
somewhat, and I know it is difficult. The provinces have the legal right to
impose these bans, but they are not science-based and it calls into question the
safety of the rest of the system. That is our issue.
You are also seeing several municipalities dabbling in the area of GMOs. A
municipality in Ontario has contemplated a GMO ban. That is a worrying trend as
Senator Ogilvie: That puts it into perspective immediately and I
understand exactly what you are dealing with.
Mr. Prouse, you deal with science and the protection of various aspects of
technology in the farm area. Until the late 1980s there was no concept of plant
breeders' rights in Canada and the Plant Breeders' Rights Act was introduced.
Has that been implemented in a manner that is actually working to protect plants
developed or modified through plant biotechnology to give Canadian farmers an
additional benefit through the protection of intellectual property?
Mr. Prouse: We think it has. I will give a two-part answer to that.
Number one is crop diversity. Diversity is as good or better now than it ever
has been. On the other element, if you were to bring the grower groups in here,
I think they would tell you that their choices in terms of seeds are excellent
and very strong. I always say leave it to a farmer to put it in a very succinct
manner. A farmer appeared before the House of Commons Agriculture Committee last
spring and he said the most expensive seeds sell out first every spring. Why?
Because the most expensive seeds provide them with the best yields. I borrowed
that line, because leave it to a farmer to put it straight. In short, yes, we
think the system is working as it should.
Senator Eaton: I want to follow up on municipalities banning
pesticides for people's lawns. It is ironic because they do not ban them on golf
courses, which tells you something. Why do the fertilizer people not put on an
education campaign? Why sit back and let municipal health officers have a party
at their expense?
Mr. Prouse: On the issue of pesticides, before I came to CropLife, the
debate was how to fight this. It ended up being fought legally, and they lost.
They ended up going to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said yes, the
municipalities have the right to do that. It is difficult. There are only so
many of us, and all it takes is a small group of activists at a local council —
Senator Eaton: I guess I am always surprised that there are not
activists trying to win hearts and minds on your side.
Mr. Prouse: We are certainly working on it. We talk to our stakeholder
groups. One of the biggest stakeholder groups impacted is those who do lawn
care. In many cases, that business has been devastated by this. I think everyone
was a little blindsided and did not think it would apply to them. I think we are
feeling a bit of a pushback now that people are seeing the actual impact of
these bans. We are certainly not going to give up the fight. Did they fight as
vigorously as they should have? No, I do not think they did. I think you have a
good point there.
Senator Robichaud: I can understand the ban of pesticide use by the
municipal governments if you have a neighbour that does not read the
instructions and uses a lot of pesticide. I would think the use and application
are part of the instructions and how you should use it to get the maximum
benefit. If my neighbour is using it and I think he is putting it on too thick,
I go to the municipal government and say, ``That is not right.'' Then they have
to react. It is a question, I am sure, of education.
However, that was not my question. We heard from Mr. Stephens that in the
planning stages of developing a kind of fertilizer that is released when the
root of the particular plant touches it, and it is only released at a certain
time. How far ahead are we in this innovative approach to fertilizer? They were
saying it is in the development stage. Could you provide more information on
Mr. Stephens: Yes, there is some research out there that is dealing
with one of the 4Rs — applying at the right source, right rate, right time,
right place. There is research out there looking at trying to match that, when
is the best time to apply the fertilizer with the seed so crop nutrient
efficiency is maximized and less nutrient losses occur. Yes, there is
information out there.
Senator Robichaud: How far away are we from having that type of
technology and fertilizer that releases when the plant is near enough to pick it
Mr. Stephens: Offhand, I do not know.
Senator Robichaud: We should ask the other person who informed us
Can you tell me more about the Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol? Is
that in the process of being tested?
Mr. Stephens: Yes. CFI has some research sites looking at applying the
4R nutrient principles and seeing the impact on nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is
a powerful greenhouse gas, over 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Nitrous oxide is emitted when nitrogen-based fertilizers are used, whether from
manures or commercial fertilizers. These study sites are looking at best
management practices farmers can use to help reduce their emissions of
greenhouse gases and how much reduction they can expect to occur so we can be
more nutrient efficient.
Senator Robichaud: How open are farmers to these new procedures and
innovative ways of controlling fertilizer and pesticides?
Mr. Stephens: How perceptive are they?
Senator Robichaud: How receptive?
Mr. Stephens: Generally, I think it is very good. Quite often farmers
are interested in knowing how they can be more efficient at managing nutrients
and getting more for the products they purchase. There is an education component
required, but overall farmers are good stewards of the land. Quite often, there
are farmers out there who welcome more information to use on their operation.
Senator Robichaud: I am only saying that because we know how we are
set, speaking for myself, in our old ways, and we want to do things that we have
done for a certain time over and over again. When someone comes along with
something different, we tend to wait for the other guy to try it. Do you find
that in the farmer population?
Mr. Prouse: We have found that today's farmers are very
entrepreneurial. If you were to bring in the Canadian Federation of Agriculture,
they would tell you that. They are always looking to maximize yield. They are
entrepreneurial because they have to be because, if they are not, they cannot
survive. They have become that. As a result, we see them at the conferences, and
we see the grower groups are very active. The grower groups are always at our
conferences and work very closely with us. You have a very informed and
motivated group of people out there farming today.
Senator Robichaud: You talked mostly about the Prairie provinces. What
about the Maritime provinces where there are a lot of potato producers?
Mr. Prouse: In terms of embracing technology?
Senator Robichaud: Technology that applies to them specifically.
Mr. Prouse: It is funny you should mention that because our favourite
display when we go to trade shows and are trying to educate the public is a
little glass dome. We have the Colorado potato beetle underneath it actively
chewing away at a potato plant to demonstrate to the public just how quickly
they move. They are kept well under the dome, Mr. Chair. Do not worry.
Potato would be one crop where, without embracing modern technology on
pesticides, production would be a fraction of what it is today. That is one of
the messages we are trying to get out. We have not been as active in the
Atlantic provinces, senator, as we probably should be. Coast to coast to coast,
this technology is beneficial, whether at the farm gate or the grocery store.
Mr. Stephens: To answer your question dealing with the Maritimes, the
CFI is getting more engaged in the Maritimes and educating producers about the
4Rs. We do have a small 4R research demonstration plot, which we are hoping to
expand in the future, to show growers about implementing the 4Rs for their
fertilizer products. It is an area we are looking at.
Senator Plett: Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing here this morning.
Mr. Prouse, I think you at least in part answered my question when you
answered Senator Ogilvie's question. In your comments, you speak about the
provinces and municipalities undermining what the federal government is doing.
Is it mostly in the areas that you spoke about with the pesticides or are there
Mr. Prouse: The biggest and most obvious one is pesticides, as we
alluded to. When you have provinces that are taking Health Canada regulations
and saying, notwithstanding the years of study that have gone into this; and
notwithstanding the 300-plus scientists at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency
who have approved this, we will ban it, we find it frustrating.
The next trend is genetically modified foods. There was a municipality in the
province of Ontario that passed a ban on genetically modified foods. It is an
open question as to how they could enforce and regulate that. Our concern is in
the planting. Will they try to regulate the planting of it by a farmer if it is
a rural municipality? We look at that. Look at the tremendously positive impact
canola has had across the country. Now we will have municipalities, one by each,
deciding Canadian food policy? That is very concerning. The use of pesticides
has mostly been on a practical level, but now that we are seeing them debating
plant biotechnology at a local town council. That is a bit of a concern.
Senator Plett: Senator Eaton asked why we do not have activists on the
other side as well.
Mr. Prouse: I would like to know that as well.
Senator Plett: I live in a farming community just southeast of
Winnipeg, and I have found that to be the case. As you suggested, farmers are
extremely entrepreneurial, but they are the most hesitant, I find, in wanting to
get into these types of scraps and battles. They do not ban together; they just
hope that the group that is fighting someone will not come and fight them. It
seems that when you get these activists, it does not take them long, when they
move into a small community, to move out of the city. They see there is a hog
farm down the road when they buy their five-acre piece of land. As soon as they
settle in and the wind is the wrong direction one day, then they want to close
down the hog farming operation. They then run for council, are elected and
proceed to shut down farms. I find that very frustrating in Manitoba, where we
have a lot of hog farms. It has gone so far that the province has now placed a
moratorium on increasing both hog production and farms. I think they did the
same thing in Quebec a few years ago.
One of the complaints or myths that they raise is that farmers use their
natural fertilizer to put on the field. They use the waste that they have in
their hog barns and put it on the field. There is a lot of fear mongering about
this somehow getting down into a water stream that is 150 feet below the
I have a question in that regard, which is more for the record, I believe,
because I think I know the answer. When a hog farmer applies manure on the
field, what danger is there that it will get into a water stream? We need
buffers; I understand that. We cannot allow it to run into the ditches, which
can then run into a river and a lake. A lot of care must be taken. However, as
far as getting down into a water stream, is there any concern with that?
Mr. Stephens: That is a good question. Every field is different; every
farm is different. For a producer to spread his or her manure or fertilizer, to
really understand the risk, you have to apply the 4R principles to minimize that
risk. That is, ensuring both that they are applying at the right application
rate and that the crop will use what they are applying. Therefore, less will go
into the waterways and into the air.
Each situation is different. Basically, the answer is to minimize as best
they can. Each field has different risks.
Senator Plett: Assuming they do everything properly — and I find
farmers to be tremendously good stewards — the risk can be mitigated. Is that
Mr. Stephens: It can be, yes.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for to your presentations this morning. This
is a really exciting report. I had a peek at a presentation here this morning
that I think is wonderful. Well done.
I would like to frame my question around the Maritime provinces. Like my
colleague Senator Robichaud, we are very familiar with the amount of potatoes
that are grown in our area — the best potatoes, of course. That is why we are
very proud of them. Our farmers are well educated. They are responsible and
innovative. They are defenders of the great stewardships of the land and they
respect the process. They do everything that I think is possible to make the
application of fertilizers safe. Yet, under certain weather conditions, there is
a runoff. We are also close, and a small community, to lakes and rivers.
Consequently, we have fish kills on a pretty regular basis. Is there any
scientific research taking place on what is the best way to correct that or if
it is possible to correct it? I know they plow their fields properly and do all
of those things, but if that material gets into a waterway, it is a problem.
Could you comment on that?
Mr. Prouse: I am not from Prince Edward Island, but one of my
colleagues at CropLife is. I understand that the resolution they came to is
buffers. There is an effort now to create larger buffers. They feel that with
the creation of a proper and larger buffer, they can minimize this. Can you
promise it will be eliminate and it will never ever happen? I do not think
anyone can ever make that promise. However, my understanding of the P.E.I.
situation is that in hindsight they feel that the direction that they need to go
in is larger buffers between the fields and waterways.
Senator Hubley: We have had buffers. If they enlarge them, then that
may be the answer. Certainly they have had buffers on all waterways and streams
for years now. I am glad to hear that there perhaps will be some scientific work
being done in that area.
Mr. Prouse: The work on the pesticides themselves continues. The
products that you are seeing now are different than the products you have seen
in the past. For example, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency
generally will not approve anything now that will have residual effects. For
example, everything they approve has to dissipate or break down typically within
72 hours. It cannot have a penetration rate of any more than 18 inches or so.
Anything that has a residual and leeches into the soil will not get approval.
Our sister organization, CleanFARMS, is active across the country in
collecting obsoletes. Farmers are getting rid of obsoletes in an environmental
Are things perfect? No. Are they better than they were 20 years ago? Yes,
they are, and I think technology is playing a role in that.
Senator Hubley: My other question concerns the amount of composting
that I think everyone does these days, not only on a household scale but also on
an industrial scale. If there are things that can be retrieved and broken down,
they are. What sort of science or technology is coming out of that composting
Mr. Stephens: Compost, when it is properly decomposed — mature, as
they call it — can be a source of fertilizer for some areas. There is technology
out there to ensure it is properly broken down and mixed. Again, if they are to
use it for fertilizer, the way to get the most nutrient efficiency would be to
apply the 4R Nutrient Stewardship system to maintain the quality of their
farmland and the local environment to get some nutrients out of the material.
Senator Hubley: I have another question dealing with the Maritimes. In
my area, I believe the soy crop now has exceeded grain and barley. I know there
is always a need, all farmers want that science and innovation knowledge; they
want to know the new crop. This year, we see canola on Prince Edward Island as
How does your outreach work? You mentioned that there are seminars and
workshops. Is that your main avenue of education?
Mr. Prouse: I have this lovely little lapel pin from the Grow Canada
Conference, which runs next week in Winnipeg. It is 11 of the major agriculture
groups across the country coming together — the Soybean Council, the Canola
Council, the Grain Growers Association, et cetera; everyone comes together for a
yearly conference. That is a tremendous avenue to share knowledge. However, you
are also seeing that those grower groups themselves are extremely active in
sharing information. The greatest news about that is that modern technology has
now allowed, through the Internet, for groups to share information quickly.
If you look across industries, you will never see groups as keen on sharing
information as agricultural groups are.
Mr. Stephens: I agree with Mr. Prouse here. The CFI partners up with
as many agencies as we can to promote new research and innovation and to educate
farmers — whether it is through the Internet, our certified crop advisers,
governments or other industries — getting the word out there on the 4Rs and
other environmental practices for farmers.
Senator Rivard: Concerning pesticides and fertilizers, do you have any
idea of the percentage they represent, in federal and sometimes provincial
programs, as to the total amount invested in research and innovation? I am not
looking for a precise figure, but just an approximate proportion. Is it a third,
a quarter or 75 per cent?
Mr. Prouse: Are you talking about provincial governments and their
investment in innovation?
Senator Rivard: No. Maybe we could add both, but as far as we are
concerned, we could consider federal programs supporting innovative research in
your area. You probably know how much the federal government is investing in
your area. What percentage of your investments does the money invested by the
federal government in your innovation work represent?
Mr. Prouse: Probably the best way to answer that is in terms of seed
approvals by the federal government. Every year, the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency approves new seeds and new traits. Last year, of the new seeds and new
traits they approved, I believe almost 80 per cent were private sector.
In terms of seed innovation, you are now seeing that the strong majority —
now pushing 80 per cent — of that innovation is being pushed by the private
sector. That is a change. A generation ago, most of that research was being done
You are seeing a lot of collaboration between the industry and universities.
That is probably one area of intersection — the major agricultural universities,
Guelph, for instance, being a large agricultural centre. To the extent that you
are seeing a lot of government investment in agricultural innovation, I think
you are seeing it largely taking place at the university level.
Senator Rivard: Witnesses who appeared before the committee told us
that their challenge was to produce more food and less waste. How do the R & D
projects contribute to this goal in your area? Could you mention cases or things
you have done to help meet this goal of producing more food and less waste?
Mr. Prouse: I think the canola we referenced earlier is probably the
best example. Yields on canola are up 20 per cent in the last decade alone. That
is a staggering number. That increase is due largely to plant biotechnology — to
new traits coming out, more productivity.
That same kind of innovation came a bit earlier on corn. Corn yields are up
six times what they were 50 years ago. It is tremendous. In Canada, people take
that for granted at the grocery store, but those yields are up tremendously.
We think more innovation needs to be done. I think the next area of
innovation, one people are starting to talk about, is wheat; where is the trend
on wheat? I have heard people in our industry suggest that wheat has been a bit
of a technological orphan, but in the need to feed 9 billion people by 2050,
there needs to be a stronger push on innovation. We believe that plant sciences
can play a strong role in that, and I think the past evidence suggests that is
Senator Rivard: If I may, I would like to go back to the question
raised by our colleague from the Maritimes concerning composting. The senator
told us that many people in his province have chosen this way to recuperate
Mr. Chair, to help us understand and for the sake of our final report, I
would like to know the numbers, by province, of the percentage of households who
are composting. Our goal is 95 per cent. I think I read somewhere that in
Quebec, it is just 5 per cent. I do not think our witnesses can give us an
answer offhand. Some research will be needed. I am curious to know the present
situation at the residential level. As to the businesses and industries, that
will be the subject of another question.
The Chair: Could you comment on that question, and/or could you come
back to us in writing?
Mr. Stephens: Offhand, I do not know those numbers for residential and
industrial amounts of material composted for nutrient application, but I can
look at it and get back to you.
Senator Eaton: Part of the scope of our report is opening up more
foreign markets, increasing our exports and diversifying our food baskets. With
pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers, do you see any kind of invisible
tariffs, dealing with Europe or other countries, with the way we use fertilizers
in this country?
Mr. Prouse: I can speak to the issue of biotechnology as a non-tariff
trade barrier. For an example, when people say ``what do you mean by
science-based regulation,'' I point out to them that the regulations on
genetically modified organisms in Europe are not science based, and that ends up
being a non-tariff trade barrier.
There is no question, our industry and our members are enthusiastic free
traders. We have no defensive positions, which I believe is the phrase that they
Senator Eaton: Do they have offensive positions towards us? That is
what I am asking.
Mr. Prouse: No question. A few weeks ago, Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada put on a market access seminar day for different stakeholders like
ourselves. They went over — market by market, internationally — what the state
of play is.
Senator Eaton: Can you give us that state of play?
Mr. Prouse: In a nutshell, Europe is difficult. Its attitudes and
regulations towards biotechnology are extremely closed. Currently, the CIDA
negotiations are going on. One of the big pushes by Canada's government is
looking for more market access on biotechnology. It has been very difficult. If
you look across the other ocean, towards the Asia- Pacific nations, there are
closed attitudes in Japan on genetically modified organisms. It is ironic given
that Japan will always be a food importer and has a tremendous need to import
food to feed their people. The trade rules are — as the officials in Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada put it — somewhat opaque. Yes, it is an ongoing battle. I
would say the number of nations with science-based regulation and rules-based
trade are dwarfed by the nations that sadly do not have science-based regulation
and rules-based trade.
Senator Eaton: In other words, we could think of the United States and
us. What other nations would you say would be on our side?
Mr. Prouse: If they are a major agricultural exporter, for example,
Australia, Brazil and Argentina. In Brazil and Argentina biotechnology has
tremendous growth. There has been an agricultural revolution in Brazil over the
last decade or so, largely fuelled by biotechnology. They obviously have a
strong desire for rules-based trade.
Senator Eaton: On science?
Mr. Prouse: On science. In fact, you saw Canada, the United States,
Argentina and Brazil all write jointly together to the European Union last year,
asking for changes in the rules on approvals.
Senator Eaton: Will encouraging use of, as you say, the fournutrient
system — and we are not talking GM seeds here — be another negotiating hurdle in
Mr. Prouse: I would think attitudes towards plant biotech would be an
issue on the table for TPP, no question. You look at those nations and the
attitudes towards plant biotech, in terms of imports, range from difficult to
Senator Eaton: Are India and China included in the TPP?
Mr. Prouse: I believe China is.
Senator Eaton: China would want to believe in biotech and the
Mr. Prouse: In terms of imports, no. In terms of the technologies and
in terms of what they are doing themselves, let us separate now. Everyone is a
free trader when it comes to exports.
Senator Eaton: This will form an important part of our report, so we
want to learn as much from you as we can.
What is your — I should not call it industry, but perhaps I will —
relationship with organic gardening? I think there is a strong movement afoot.
You see locally grown, organic food in local markets. They are not always the
same thing, of course. Is that educational? Is that a hurdle for you? Will there
always be a small percentage of the population that believe pesticides and
fertilizers are the devil's work, and only compost is the right way to go? How
do you deal with that movement?
Mr. Prouse: Contrary to myth, we have no difficulty with organics and
the organic sector. That is a choice that consumers can make. We believe through
their actions at the grocery store, the majority of people simply want safe,
affordable, nutritious food for their families.
Senator Eaton: With taste.
Mr. Prouse: Yes. That is their desire. We have no difficulty. We
believe there is certainly a market segment for organic. We are not
anti-organic. There is a strong, thriving organic movement, but let us not let
that interfere with the ability of farmers to maximize their yields or interfere
with the ability of consumers to make choices. It is a choice. It is there. We
are not opposed to it.
Sometimes some organic growers have a problem with us, but we do not have a
problem with them.
Senator Eaton: Mr. Stephens, I have a follow-up question about the
4Rs. One of our past witnesses told us that apparently in Quebec — I have had
the occasion and my brother is a hobby farmer in Quebec — they have local,
community agronomists. They get a group of farmers together — one who is an
agronomist — that goes out into the community and helps people. Do you know that
Mr. Stephens: No, I am not familiar with that system.
Senator Eaton: Do you have an educational system to go out and teach
farmers how to use fertilizers and pesticides in a more systemic way?
Mr. Stephens: As I mentioned earlier, we are developing an
Internet-based training course, partnering with certified crop advisers. We can
talk to these agronomists in Quebec, partner with them and the provincial
government as another option and of course ask the federal government to adopt
the 4R with Agriculture Canada. That way we can have extension material prepared
for producers and dealing with these crop advisers to help educate farmers about
Senator Eaton: My brother was very impressed with the agronomist that
came out, part of a collective in an area. Each region has them. It is something
you might want to look into.
Senator Plett: I have a supplement to Senator Eaton's question about
organic. I know very little about organic food, but I went to the Metro grocery
store the other day. I like to have raspberries with my cornflakes in the
morning. I buy them there and pay $1.75 a basket. I will tell a story. I took
two baskets and that was all they had. As I was walking out, there were others
and I took another three or four baskets. At the checkout they charged me $1.75
for two baskets and $4.99 for the other three baskets. I asked, ``Why are they
$4.99?'' They were organic raspberries. I said I did not need organic
raspberries. I will take the ones for $1.75. Why does it cost more than double
to have the exact same amount of organic food? Does it cost that much more money
to grow organic food?
Mr. Prouse: That would be an excellent question to ask the organic
council if you brought them in. It is interesting. We simply look at the
nutritional aspect. The question we are always asking people when they are
talking about the regulation is, ``What is the nutritional difference between an
organic and non-organic product, or corn for instance, that has been genetically
modified or not?'' I am fond of quoting a report by the EU. It is ironic given
the EU's attitudes towards genetically modified. After 25 years of research,
$475 million worth of studies, they came to the conclusion that a plant modified
genetically is no different than a plant modified by other means. That was the
exact line in the report. Notwithstanding that report, they will continue to go
on and ban those products. If you can make sense of that, please let me know.
The majority of consumers simply want safe, nutritional and affordable food
for their families, period. How it is labelled and how it is marketed is a
choice that consumers can make, obviously.
Senator Plett: At least, in your opinion, it would not be $2 or $2.99
more valuable to me in as far as nutritional value?
Mr. Prouse: Let us just say that my actions at the grocery store would
have mirrored yours.
Senator Robichaud: It puts more colour in your cheeks, Senator Plett.
Senator Fairbairn: It has been interesting and exciting to listen to
you say that Canada is moving in this particular area. As I was looking through
some of the material we have here, on what you call NERP, I noted that you have
been approved for use in Alberta for special places and industries. Could you
explain that to us? Where is it coming from? I assume that it would be going out
of the country as well.
Mr. Stephens: That is a good question. You are correct; NERP, the
Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol, was approved under Alberta's carbon
trading market for farmers. If they were to adopt the NERP, they would go
through their carbon trading system there to verify that farmers implement the
NERP, the 4R Nutrient Stewardship, that they can reduce their greenhouse gas
emissions by a certain percentage, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced
levels of best management practices, and therefore earn carbon credits through
Alberta is the first jurisdiction to approve this. CFI thinks that NERP can
be used worldwide, which certainly includes across Canada. It maybe needs to be
tweaked a little here and there for different conditions, but we definitely
think that after it has been rigorously developed in the past, with many
consultants and scientists, it can definitely be widely adopted across the
Senator Fairbairn: As you do this within Canada itself, what areas
outside Canada would you be interested in?
Mr. Stephens: Right now, in the United States, the Corn Belt is one
area in which the NERP potentially could be used. Corn is a major crop there,
but is also a big crop here in Canada. It is region-specific, obviously, but it
certainly can be adopted for a lot of farming practices.
Senator Ogilvie: With your permission, chair, I would like to make a
couple of comments on questions asked by my colleagues and then to follow up
with an intervention with regard to the GM food issue.
First, with regard to Senator Eaton's comment with regard to agronomists,
that is a provincial and federal program where agronomists go out and work with
local farming communities to advise them on a whole range of issues. You have a
fertilizer institute. Much of the information you develop goes into the
information that the various programs in the provincial and federal agriculture
departments deliver to the individual areas. It is not a one-off in Quebec. It
occurs widely, and certainly I am familiar with it in the Annapolis Valley.
With regard to Senator Plett's comment about the possibility of issues around
runoff, I thought you handled that well, Mr. Prouse. It is like all areas of
chemistry. It is all about the dose and then how you use it. The reality is that
until not so long ago, we did not have a lot of deliberate intervention with
regard to runoff from fields, and the largest for a long time was manure. We
know there have been significant difficulties with E. coli and other issues
entering the water streams because the water system is not a simple kind of
thing. I think you answered it very well with regard to complexity of the
farmland system, the water table distributions and so on. Of course, with the
chemical fertilizers, there was a time they just ran off down into the local
stream and collected a lot of nitrates and other things.
Today with the knowledge that exists, as you pointed out, in the
agriculture-based universities, there is no reason for this to continue, but of
course it has not reached everyone yet, and in life we know it never will reach
everyone. There are clearly ways to mitigate this and to prevent it. I thought
you gave a very good answer in that regard.
I would like to come to the GM food issue. This is one where, once again,
because of our societal misunderstanding of issues, there is the ability to have
fear instilled by those who have a particular point of view and are quick off
the ground to articulate it, which is what occurred in this particular case. It
has always astounded me that a society that accepts what they consider to be
natural food production, which is based on normal plant breeding, which
transfers thousands of genes from one plant and often deliberately into a
different kind of plant to potentially produce a new plant, where natural
breeding transfers thousands of genes from one plant to another, is considered
Genetic modification takes one gene, with a clear purpose, and transfers it
under carefully selected conditions to produce a benefit — drought resistance,
pesticide resistance, more yield per plant, better use of nutrients and things
of that nature. It just, to me, is one of the issues that will ultimately have
to be overcome in order for us to feed the world's population through what is in
fact a safer technology than many of the ways that were used to produce
modifications in plants, better plants over time. This is true not just in plant
breeding but in animal breeding. If we look at, say, plants like cabbage,
cauliflower, broccoli, there are half a dozen currently used food products that
all look very different from one another that originally came from the same
plant. That did not happen by just a little bit of sunlight falling on it. That
was due to the accidental, in some cases, introduction of major genes from
another living organism into an existing organism and producing a dramatically
The difficulty that we have in this area is being able to overcome, shall we
say, the Hollywood approach to conveying information versus the logical
dissemination of information, and which one has the greatest impact on the
I really hope that your industries will continue to articulate the role that
you are playing in all of this, that scientists will become better themselves at
articulating, on your behalf and on their own behalf, what they are really
doing. Probably, as you have outlined in some figures here and described today,
the increased productivity of healthy foods from the science over the last 20
years has been dramatic, and we will have to continue to rely on that in order
to bring good food to the world's population.
I do not know if you wish to add any other comment, but these are areas that
I have followed with some great interest and have been very pleased with the way
that both of you have presented your information, touching on these important
areas this morning.
Mr. Prouse: Just to add one item, you made an excellent point in that
biotechnology is not necessarily genetically modified organisms. Biotechnology
has allowed farmers now to do much more effective plant breeding without
necessarily genetic modification, because they are able to understand the gene
mapping far more effectively. It is an ongoing battle.
I played a little game when the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
testified in front of a House of Commons committee; I called it count the
qualifiers — could be, may be, could lead to, has been linked to, but without
any hard evidence. We keep echoing science-based regulation; we think that is
the best protection that Canadians have.
We forget, within our borders, how well respected the Canadian regulatory
system is worldwide. We punch above our weight significantly internationally
because of that. It is why we keep talking about it.
I do not want Canadians to take that for granted, or for the Government of
Canada to take that for granted, because science-based regulation, as you
alluded to, is under threat daily. It requires a vigorous defence, both up and
down. We think the federal government has done a great job defending
science-based regulation internationally. We will probably now need to be more
robust about defending it and communicating about it at the provincial and local
Senator Robichaud: When I was talking earlier about neighbours using
too much pesticides or herbicides, my neighbours should not think I am
pinpointing them. It is not the case, with all the dandelions we have at our
Lately, in our area, we have been invaded by earwigs for three or four years.
They are out of control, and they are found everywhere. It is really disgusting.
In one of your findings, Mr. Stephens, you talked about increased funding and
support for research in soil science.
Is that where we should put most of our emphasis now, on research in the
agriculture sector? Is there a great need there?
Mr. Stephens: There are many different areas of agricultural research.
Soil science is very important. It is the foundation of sustainable agriculture.
I am a soil scientist myself from school, but obviously understanding what goes
on in the soil and the plant nutrition aspects to improve crop nutrient
efficiency when fertilizers are being applied helps to minimize nutrient losses
to our atmosphere through greenhouse gases or potentially into waterways.
There should be more research into that area definitely, again developing
science-based regulations with that. It definitely will help reduce any impact
agriculture would have on the environment.
Senator Robichaud: You mentioned increased funding. What do you mean
by that? By how much more should we increase the funding to allow you to do a
proper job? Of course, you can always want the sky but you will not get it.
Mr. Stephens: Yes, I do understand the government is under financial
constraints. CFI has some funding on the ground in three provinces. The reason
we do that is to get some local data so we can use some of that local research
data to help educate farmers. Obviously, for a farmer in Alberta to adopt a
better management practice, if they had local data on some 4R research in their
neighbourhood, that would help in their education, versus getting data from
Ontario, where it is a different agro-ecosystem, with a different climate and
These research projects are not cheap. To have a field several acres in size
with different crops and different products, you are looking at several thousand
dollars easily — tens of thousands of dollars in manpower, et cetera. The more
the merrier, but we understand the government only has so much money.
Senator Robichaud: Do you run across the situation where the province
will tell you that they will put money in if the federal government puts money
in and vice versa, and then you end up getting nothing?
Mr. Stephens: Yes, something we are trying to promote is to get
provincial and federal collaboration. Why reinvent the wheel completely if we do
not need to? The more partnerships we have, whether with industry and
government, the better. However, to my knowledge, that particular issue you
speak of has not been a problem.
Senator Robichaud: How much leverage do you have from whatever funds
you could receive from the farmers who would use that technology or that new
Mr. Stephens: I think a fair amount, getting industry partnerships and
other farming community groups like CropLife and other farming groups onside.
Definitely, they are amenable to joining us on certain projects, as we are in
joining them on certain projects. As I said, the more dollars and the more
partners, the better.
Senator Hubley: Mr. Stephens, you are probably aware of a former
report that this Senate committee did years ago by the former Senator Sparrow,
who named his report Soil at Risk. At the time, he was very forward
thinking and he saw that unless we changed our farming practices, the soil would
not produce what we hoped it would. I thought I would mention that, since you
had been in that field as well.
Mr. Prouse, you may be able to answer my next question as it is in your
presentation. You express a worrying trend of provincial and municipal
governments undermining the credibility of the federal government. Would you
explain that a little further? In what way would that happen?
Mr. Prouse: In the area of science-based regulation, senator. As I
say, you have a federal agency now in the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of
Health Canada regulating pesticides. Notwithstanding that regulation, you are
having provincial and local governments step in with overlapping regulations,
where they are banning products that have been through the Health Canada
approval process. To us, that is very worrying.
I will raise one example. I do not wish to just pick on Quebec, because a
number of provinces have done this. In May, there was a NAFTA settlement on a
case that was brought by Dow AgroSciences, a member company of ours, on the
issue of 2,4-D.
To get right to the chase, Quebec had to sign an agreement that said 2,4-D,
when used as directed, was not unsafe for humans, animals and the environment
and, in essence, that the approval it received from Health Canada was correct.
Notwithstanding the fact that they signed this NAFTA agreement in May, the
Province of Quebec continues to ban 2,4-D. Why? When pressed, they said it is
Applying that as your standard, three quarters of the products at the
drugstore would also be off the shelves. They are unnecessary as well. There is
just one example of where we think that politics is trumping science.
As I expressed to Senator Ogilvie earlier, the issue now of municipal
councils dabbling in the area of GMOs is extremely disturbing. That is food
safety. That is Canada's agricultural productivity and you have municipal
councils debating this now. That is a worrying trend to me. That expresses the
need for the federal government to talk a little more robustly about
Senator Hubley: I have a quick question. You had suggested that Canada
champion a more integrated and harmonized international approval system for our
technologies. What would you suggest the way forward should be for doing that?
Mr. Prouse: One example that is on the table right now is the
Regulatory Cooperation Council between Canada and the United States. They are
talking to the U.S. government to try to eliminate distinctions without a
difference, where the regulation of a product in the United States is different
from the regulation in Canada. When those regulations are different, it makes it
difficult for farmers to get those technologies faster.
We think there is probably a lot of room, when you are dealing with another
nation that also has a science-based regulatory system, to harmonize regulations
and also to accept data and testing that has been done in another nation, just
as we would hope that they would accept our data and our testing, instead of
constantly having countries with science-based regulatory systems consistently
having to go reinvent the wheel.
Senator Robichaud: When you say it is the federal government, the
provincial governments and municipal governments working against one another and
the federal government should take a stronger role, I do not agree with you. I
think each level of government must retain their authority to act as to what
they see is best for either municipalities or provinces. When you say it is all
science based, it is, but I remember a few years ago there were scientists at
Agriculture Canada that ran into difficulties because they did not agree with
some findings and that all the information was not put out. I think provinces
and municipalities should keep their powers so when things like that happen, at
least we have sort of a shock absorbing effect that will hold it for a while. I
do not think it is governments. It is agencies of the governments, not
Senator Eaton: We are called to comment today, are we? I think there
is far too much discrimination in the international community against us because
of our GM food and our farm research, so I might disagree with you there.
You said in your presentation, Mr. Prouse, that the challenges that modern
agriculture faces are drought and salt tolerant crops, better disease control,
better nitrogen utilization and foods with improved nutritional content. Are we
doing enough as a country in terms of research in our universities and federally
to work on these problems? Do not be diplomatic. This is for our report.
Mr. Prouse: That is akin to asking someone from the education field if
we are spending enough on education, and the answer, of course, is always no.
Could we be doing more? Yes. We want Canada to do more, and we want Canada to be
a centre for innovation excellence.
Senator Eaton: Do we spend as much per capita as our competitors,
countries such as Brazil, China, the U.S.?
Mr. Prouse: It is difficult to get a fix on how much the Chinese are
spending on this area of research. We suspect a lot. That is evidenced by the
land that China is buying internationally, most recently in Africa, to work on
You have hit on a good point because Canada has fallen slightly from being
number four in agricultural exports internationally a decade ago. We have now
fallen to number nine, not necessarily because our productivity has fallen off
but you have seen international competitors, and you alluded to a couple of them
in Argentina and Brazil, who have just taken off. Canada, we believe, has the
ability to be that kind of agricultural exporting powerhouse. Look at our arable
land and the technology we have. We have the ability to do that.
Senator Eaton: Should we change what we export or should we change
what we develop?
Mr. Prouse: I think markets will ultimately determine that. At the end
of the day, that will not be decided around one table. International market
demand will determine that. We certainly see a role for Canada, a much stronger
role, as an agricultural exporting power.
Senator Eaton: Would taking the monopoly away from the Wheat Board
increase wheat research in new and better kinds of wheat?
Mr. Prouse: You are certainly seeing some discussion about that. It is
early days on that, but that is something that has been discussed. As I alluded
to earlier, there have been some in the industry who have suggested that wheat
has been a bit of a technological orphan relative to soy, corn, barley and
canola. There are certainly some of our members who are very excited about the
changes that are coming forward.
What would be the barrier to that? You alluded to it earlier — the attitudes
in terms of imports from many nations around the world. I do not think it is a
stretch to suggest that some of these attitudes amount to what is a non-tariff
The Chair: When it comes to the last question asked by Senator Eaton
with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board, I dare say, honourable senators, we
will have the occasion to pose questions.
Senator Robichaud wishes to comment.
Senator Robichaud: I would like to comment. Given what you said and
Senator Eaton's question, Senator Eaton must be trying to prepare me for what is
to come, but we are ready. Your answer to Senator Eaton's question was rather
diplomatic, Mr. Prouse. You evaded the issue.
You said that we have fallen back as an agricultural product exporting
country, but what about our research? How are we exporting and getting value out
of that research that would or could be used by other countries?
Mr. Prouse: I can only speak to the private sector research. Our
members invest about 11 per cent of their profits directly back into research
and development. You have seen, in the last two years, three new agriculture
research facilities open in Canada. There will certainly be more to come. There
is a new facility in Winnipeg, one in Saskatoon and one announced for Southern
Ontario. These are private sector companies that are making these investments
because, frankly, that is where the future is.
Senator Robichaud: And where the money is.
Mr. Prouse: Absolutely. Do you know why? Because there is value in
innovation. People will pay a premium for innovation. I alluded to it earlier.
Farmers will pay a premium for those seeds because they get them better yields
at the farm gate. This is the knowledge-based economy. We are always pointing
out to elected officials that when people talk about the knowledge-based
economy, we are not patting ourselves on the back too hard, but that is us. We
are a big part of that because you can create value.
I think you are seeing a lot of investment and innovation. I just want to
make sure that Canada has a welcoming climate so that that can continue.
Senator Robichaud: How much of these new technologies and
science-based research are we exporting?
Mr. Prouse: In practical terms, there is tremendous growth in exports
in canola. There has been innovation in canola, increased productivity and
increased exports. That will follow. Innovation spurs greater productivity,
which hopefully spurs greater research.
Senator Robichaud: I understand that part of it, but are other
countries using our technology and new findings and new ways of doing things?
Mr. Prouse: They would, because our members are global. We are members
of what is called CropLife International, which is in 91 different countries.
There is a CropLife Africa, CropLife Asia and CropLife Australia. The large
companies are global. This has become a global business. The boundaries are
quickly breaking down.
The Chair: As we close, there is also a factor about the leadership of
Canada in the world, and that is the fact of transfer of technology that we see
in our resources, which is important and demarks Canada as the best country in
With that, honourable senators, I will thank the two witnesses for sharing
their knowledge with us. The clerk will be sharing information with you with
respect to additional questions we would like to pose to you so you can come
back to us in writing. Hopefully you will continue watching and monitoring the
(The committee adjourned.)