Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 36 - Evidence - Meeting of June 6, 2013
OTTAWA, Thursday, June 6, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
8:35 a.m. to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the
agricultural sector. (Topic: Role of intellectual property rights for
innovation in agriculture.)
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair:I welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
Honourable senators, before we introduce our witness officially, I would
like to take the time to introduce ourselves.
I am Senator Percy Mockler from New Brunswick, chair of the committee. I
would ask all senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Mercer: I am Senator Terry Mercer. I am the deputy chair
of the committee, and I am from Nova Scotia.
Senator Callbeck: Catherine Callbeck, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Merchant: Pana Merchant from Saskatchewan. Welcome.
Senator Plett: Good morning. Don Plett from Manitoba.
Senator Buth: JoAnne Buth, Manitoba.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Maltais: Good morning; my name is Ghislain Maltais,
senator from the province of Quebec.
Senator Rivard: Good morning, I am Michel Rivard, senator from the
province of Quebec.
The Chair: The committee is continuing its study on research and
innovation efforts in the agricultural sector.
The committee is continuing its study on research and innovation efforts
in the agricultural sector. We are focusing on the role of intellectual
property rights for innovation in agriculture.
The order of reference was given by the Senate of Canada to the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to be authorized to examine
research and development efforts in the context of developing new markets,
domestically and internationally, enhancing agricultural sustainability and
also improving food diversity and security.
Honourable senators, we have this morning Mr. Jim Wispinski, who is the
President of Dow AgroSciences Canada.
Mr. Wispinski, thank you very much for accepting our invitation to share
with the Senate Agriculture Committee your views, your comments and your
recommendations so that Canada will continue to move forward in agriculture
in the years to come.
I have been informed by the clerk that you will make a presentation. It
will be followed by senators asking questions.
Jim Wispinski, President, Dow AgroSciences Canada: Thank you very
much, Mr. Chair, and good morning, honourable senators. It is a real
pleasure for me to be here today to talk to you about Dow AgroSciences, our
views on the importance of innovation and on the importance of intellectual
property in the agriculture and agri-food sector in Canada.
At the outset, let me first congratulate all of you on taking time to
investigate these very important topics. Never has innovation been more
important to Canada in agriculture and never has the opportunity for
innovation been greater than it is today. The need is very great.
As background, Dow AgroSciences is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dow
Chemical Company. We are one the leading agricultural companies in the
world. Our purpose at Dow AgroSciences fits very well with today's theme
because our purpose is to deliver innovative technology to meet the needs of
a growing world. We take great pride as an organization in having broad
market reach, in having leading brands in diverse markets, and in providing
support to agriculture in developed and emerging geographies.
It is a really exciting time to be in agriculture, as all of you are well
aware, and it is a really exciting time for me to be with Dow AgroSciences
as we are undergoing rapid worldwide expansion. We have facilities in more
than 40 countries and product sold in more than 130 countries.
In Canada, we have a history stretching back some 70 years. Today I am
proud to lead the organization, which has about 250 highly skilled people
working in Canada, across Canada, in a variety of jobs, in commercial, in
research and development and in operations. They are very dedicated to the
cause of bringing innovation to life in Canada.
Canada is the home for Dow AgroSciences for our global canola breeding
and research station located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We also operate
field stations, research stations in Blenheim, Ontario and St. Marys,
Ontario, that are focused on corn and soybean breeding, testing and
I would also like to highlight for you that Dow AgroSciences runs the
only private cereal research and breeding facility in Eastern Canada at its
Nairn, Ontario facility. We rebuilt that facility in 2012 and opened a
state-of-the-art facility there. This facility combines state-of-the-art
plant-breeding techniques and has a main goal of developing wheat varieties
that have agronomic improvements sought by Canadian farmers. Some of those
agronomic improvements that we are focused on include yield improvement,
improved standability and natural genetic tolerance to disease.
With that background, I do appreciate the opportunity to share with you a
little about how Dow AgroSciences invests in developing innovative chemical
and biotechnology solutions to help our producers meet the food, feed, fibre
and fuel needs of the world.
I cannot emphasize enough that we cannot do this without solid
science-based regulatory policies. These need to be supported by a strong
innovation agenda and they need to be supported by strong intellectual
property protection. In crop protection and seed market segments, as we
continue to invest in and grow existing technologies as well as advance new
technologies, these are critical elements.
Let me share a couple of technology examples. The Enlist weed control
system was recently approved in Canada, and it is a herbicide-tolerant
cropping system that combines novel traits along with a new advancement in
herbicide technology. This technology provides farmers with a new tool to
continue sustainable agricultural practices, which include minimum till and
no till and reduced inputs to produce their crops. We do this while
providing this solution to their most pressing weed management problems in
both corn and soybeans.
Our efforts in research and development also include the development of
novel agronomic input traits and output traits. No one here needs to be
reminded of the reality of the world's population growth, but it is just not
as simple as population growth. It is about population growth and the
changing diet that are driving increased protein demand. Because of this
increased protein demand, it is driving even greater demand for crop
production and the need for innovation.
Additionally, in many countries there is an increased focus on health and
nutrition driven by higher standards of living across the world and driven
by an aging population. Thus, as a company, we see both demand-driven and
wellness-driven market opportunities, and we focus our innovation efforts on
both of those areas.
From an output trait perspective, we have a vested focus on product
advancement in healthy oils, as an example. The example I will use is the
use of omega-9 canola oil, Nexera canola oil, which is produced by a brand
of canola that we developed and sell. The omega-9 canola oil is used by
major food companies. Their adoption of this oil has resulted in more than 1
billion pounds of trans fats being removed from the diets of consumers in
North America. This change has had real health benefits and has resulted in
increased market opportunities for canola within the North American market.
Nexera canola also enjoys healthy export markets to Asia and,
importantly, provides increased returns for Canadian growers. It is one of
the flagship products that we talk about when we talk about innovation
developed within our company in Canada. We also see many further
opportunities for innovation in agriculture to deliver improved health and
Moving back to the input traits, we are very committed to increasing
yields by improving genetics and stress tolerance and helping to ensure
effective weed control and insect control.
Innovations using both advanced planted breeding and biotechnology lead
to seed hybrids and varieties with greater yield potential and agronomic
improvements. In order to enable growers to benefit further from these new
varieties and hybrids earlier or as soon as possible, and to further
encourage increased investment in plant breeding, we would advocate that
modernization of the variety registration process should be a priority. In
some crops, like corn, Canada's system works very well. In key crops, like
soybean and wheat, improvements to the variety registration process would be
As you are aware, agriculture is a $70 billion sector, contributing more
than 8.8 per cent to Canada's GDP and employing more than 2 million people
country wide. The government does provide very valuable support and
contributions to the agricultural sector. I do not want to downplay these in
any way. However, I also believe that there is room for improvement in order
to establish a clear vision and direction of Canada's agricultural policies
and to further support Canada's role as a global leader in agricultural
I would advocate for two areas of focus from an improvement standpoint.
First, continue to make gains in regulatory efficiency and harmonized
approval systems. Second, work towards bettering Canadians' understanding of
the role and importance of agricultural innovation. Frankly, everyone in
agriculture has a role to play in that.
Additionally, the government could undertake more effort to strengthen
public perception on the credibility of our regulatory system. It is one of
the most rigorous systems in the world and in emphasizing the need for
private sector investment that is supported by strong intellectual property
It is critical for Canada to have appropriate policies, government
strategies and intellectual property rights because it really does encourage
investment in research by private sector companies such as Dow AgroSciences,
investment which we try to attract to Canada, and to benefit Canadian
agriculture, either by the investment being in Canada or by the investment
being in crops that are critical to Canada's success.
For success in research and innovation in agriculture, Canada really does
need to maintain a predictable, steadfast, science-based regulatory system.
I would like to take an opportunity to highlight for you a few
working-level examples of where the Canadian regulatory system both excels
and perhaps where we would see some opportunities for further improvement.
Within Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, has an
informative website, clear data requirements, a set review process,
established delivery timelines and an open communication policy for
registrants, even while operating under reduced resources. Harmonized joint
reviews work very well, and registration timing can be among the fastest in
the world, while maintaining one of the most rigorous global assessments in
the world. They have moved to electronic submissions, which are very
efficient. The PMRA is open to consultations on new and innovative ways for
increased efficiency of data reviews; for example, value-based on regulatory
history and streamlined data packages where appropriate. Let us continue to
build on this Canadian regulatory strength and encourage other key trading
partners to streamline and move submissions, especially maximum residue
limits and tolerance limits, through their regulatory systems more quickly
for Canada's trade advantage. This allows Canadian growers to have faster
access to new technologies and facilitates the trade that is so important to
Currently, a cost recovery exercise is occurring within the PMRA.
Although, as an industry player, we have no illusions that the fees will
stay the same, we would like to see any potential fee increases matched with
review timeline commitments and further efficiencies. This is the type of
approach that will continue to ensure that Canada remains globally
We also note that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, another critical
regulatory agency, is taking great strides in regulatory efficiency within
the fertilizer section, where they have updated and simplified their
We would also like to commend the CFIA on their current operational
efficiencies through their variety registration office, which has a set
process and established delivery timelines; as an example, the canola
variety registration process.
We would also like to commend the CFIA for their plant biotechnology
permit office, where import permits and confined field trial application
reviews have transparent delivery standards and the agency is able to
consistently deliver on those service standards.
I would also like to take a few moments to bring forward some areas where
in conjunction with our industry partners, we have been working with the
CFIA with the goal of achieving gains in efficiency across all sections of
the agency. Dow AgroSciences presents to this committee for both awareness
and a request for support to help make these desired outcomes a reality.
First, for submissions involving plants with novel traits that require
understanding of reviews and/or outcomes between both the CFIA and the PMRA,
we are requesting that process improvements be established.
Additionally, as I highlighted previously, certain offices within the
CFIA, such as fertilizer variety registrations and biotech permits, are
working under established delivery timelines for completion of reviews. This
is, however, not the case with plant with novel trait reviews within the
CFIA and, as you can imagine, this has significant impact on the
predictability and on our business planning processes. Establishing review
timelines would further build on what we view as a world-class plant with
the novel traits regulatory system in Canada.
As you are well aware, agriculture now works in a global business
environment. We need open communication and a willingness of government to
interact with business in a transparent and predictable manner. Without a
consistent, science-based regulatory system, Canada loses on a global basis.
In closing, as you or I talk with Canadian farmers and as you walk
through any supermarket in Canada, you can clearly see sustainable advances
that have been made in agricultural productivity, in food production and in
food quality. We have a lot to be proud of. Canadian consumers have been
very well served by Canadian farmers, who have embraced this technology and
made it available to them.
More than ever, Mr. Chair and honourable senators, there is a critical
need for innovation. Global population forecasts show that overall food
production must be boosted by 70 per cent over the next 40 years. Although
our natural resources are limited in Canada, our potential for agricultural
advances is not. Everything we do is built on unlocking the power of science
to serve this growing and changing world. We really do look forward to
working with the Canadian government, growers and other stakeholders to
unleash the true potential that Canadian agriculture can bring to the world.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today on this
very important topic, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may
Senator Mercer: Mr. Wispinski, several times in your presentation
you talked about IP protection, intellectual property protection. You were
not specific in either one of those cases. Could you give us specific issues
that you are concerned about? Obviously we have heard about intellectual
property protection issues before, but could you be a little more specific
about what is not working or what is missing from what we have now?
Mr. Wispinski: Canada is actually a fairly favourable environment,
a reasonably competitive environment on intellectual property. I would say
the one area that was highlighted before the committee by some previous
witnesses would be to modernize our plant breeders' rights and take that up
to the newest version of UPOV, 1991. That is a critical issue that needs to
Senator Mercer: I was impressed with your numbers on omega-9 oil,
1 billion pounds of trans fats removed from food products in North America.
Have you reached your full potential with that? Are there opportunities to
increase the use of omega-9 oil that would move that number of 1 billion
pounds up significantly?
Mr. Wispinski: We continue to work a lot with food companies
around the world, in particular in North America and Asia, to continue the
adoption of omega-9 oil. We believe that there are significant growth
opportunities within that to further increase it and remove trans fats and
reduce saturated fats in many places, which has tangible health benefits. We
also have other innovations in our product development pipeline, which
include working on plant-based omega-3 production or introducing no-sat
sunflower oil as another advancement within our technology. The opportunity
for innovation to drive some of these macro food ingredient changes and
really change diets we believe is an important area of focus, and one that
we are investing in.
Senator Plett: Thank you for being here this morning. I have two
fairly basic questions. In North America, from what I read in some of the
material that we have, there are basically four major players in the
innovation and technology area. Chemical companies would be Monsanto,
Syngenta — which I had not heard of before — Dow and Dupont. What is your
opinion on that? Is it, in fact, the case that there are really basically
four major players, and is it good that there are not more big companies out
there doing the work that you are doing?
Mr. Wispinski: You are right that there is a relatively small
number of people that are really investing in agricultural chemical
research. I would add a couple of other names to the list. Part of it is
that the stakes are very high to invest in agriculture chemical research. To
bring a new product to market on a global basis is $256 million, so it takes
a critical mass to be able to bring new products to market. I have been in
this industry for 28 years now, and even though there is a relatively small
number of players, the competition is as intense as it has ever been, from
my personal perspective.
Senator Plett: I suppose competition is good.
Mr. Wispinski: Competition is good. It makes all of us better.
Senator Plett: Exactly. We have also heard, and you mentioned it
in your presentation already, and we hear it every time we have someone
presenting here, that we will need to feed 9 billion people. Of course, we
have climate change, which is according to some people more prevalent than
according to others, but nevertheless it is there. We have droughts. We have
floods. What are you doing to work with GM-enhanced crops that would be more
drought resistant and could possibly cope with even more water and more
Mr. Wispinski: Senator, you are absolutely right that innovation
is needed to adapt to climate change and to varying climates, whatever
viewpoint people have on the climate change issue. We are investing in both
biotechnology as well as in advanced plant breeding to make plants with
traits with drought or stress tolerance, but also with plant breeding to
make the varieties and hybrids more adaptable across a range of
environments. It is a significant area of focus for us so that the plants
can produce high yields in a multitude of environments and across different
geographies and different weather conditions. It is a key area of focus for
us and others in the industry.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you very much for your presentation. You
are the president of Dow AgroSciences Canada, but in your presentation you
did not mention Dow AgroSciences Canada; you just mentioned Dow
AgroSciences. Is Dow AgroSciences Canada an affiliate?
Mr. Wispinski: Yes, senator. We are the affiliate of Dow
AgroSciences LLC, which is a global organization. When it comes to research
and development, we rely on a multi-pronged approach. Our discovery labs
work largely on a global basis, but a lot of local research is done in
Canada. I highlighted the Canadian canola research centre in Saskatoon,
which serves not only research in Canada but we take that research from the
Canadian facility and leverage it into other geographies around the world
where canola is very important. I apologize for any misunderstanding, but it
is an integrated system.
Senator Callbeck: You talked about the research that is done in
Canada. You may use it in other countries. What about intellectual property
rights for discoveries that scientists make in Canada? Who owns those
Mr. Wispinski: Discoveries that are made by any scientist within
our company are owned by the company.
Senator Callbeck: So that is Dow Chemical Company?
Mr. Wispinski: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: Where is their head office?
Mr. Wispinski: Our agricultural head office is in Indianapolis,
Indiana, and the corporate for Dow Chemical is in Midland, but obviously we
have legal entities around the world and Dow AgroSciences Canada is the
legal entity in Canada.
Senator Callbeck: You own several seed companies, I believe. I saw
a list of them a minute ago. Are any of those seeds produced in Canada?
Mr. Wispinski: Yes, we produce canola in Canada. We produce corn
and soybean in Canada, and we produce wheat in Canada for production in
Canada. We export some of those seeds to the U.S. and import some seeds from
other geographies as well.
Senator Callbeck: Monsanto was here the other day. They indicated
that it is best if you are buying their seed to buy it every year, because
your production will be much better than if you replant the seed. Is that
the same with yours?
Mr. Wispinski: Yes. I would say that hybrid seeds is one use. In
order for the significant investment to go on in developing new varieties,
which is an annual investment, we invest in plant breeding every single year
to develop new varieties so that we can introduce new hybrids and new
varieties every year.
There needs to be a return to the developer, and that is part of the
system, but there is a benefit to the farmer. Farmers are the best business
people in the world. They only buy products if there is a benefit to them
and to their farming operations.
Senator Callbeck: In your presentation, you talked about room for
improvement to establish clear vision and direction of Canada's agricultural
policies to support Canada's role as a global leader in agricultural
The second thing you said is to work towards bettering Canadians'
understanding of the role and importance of agricultural innovation. How
would you propose to do that?
Mr. Wispinski: I went on to say that we all have a role to play,
and I think we need to develop partnerships to really improve the
understanding of agriculture within Canada. I think the government can play
a greater role. We as industry work through trade associations to try to
help with that. We need to engage in dialogue as individuals to help gain
that understanding of agriculture with Canada.
We are more removed as a society from primary producers. We need to
engage with the primary producers to help play a role in bettering the
understanding of agriculture with consumers. It is a really important issue.
Senator Callbeck: It is. Who should be taking the leading role
Mr. Wispinski: Again, I do not know if I would advocate that
anyone in particular should take a role. I think we all need to get involved
and make it happen.
Senator Callbeck: Generally, something does not happen unless
someone steps up to the plate.
Mr. Wispinski: I think the government could take more of a
leadership role and certainly help make that happen. Industry, we are
trying, but we also have constraints. We are seen as having a vested
interest and being biased.
Farm groups are starting to take a leadership role. How do we get the
right coordination of all of those vested parties? Perhaps government could
play a role in helping make that happen.
Senator Eaton: In your presentation, you talked about agronomic
improvements sought by Canadian farmers, i.e., standability, natural genetic
tolerance to disease and yield improvement. We are going into free trade
agreements hopefully with the EU and with some Pacific nations like India
and China. Do you know of specific requirements that those countries, if we
were to keep on exporting our wheat, might want or demand?
Mr. Wispinski: We certainly look at all of the different crops in
profiles and for Canadian commodities to create new markets.
Our omega-9 canola oil is a great example. It has a health benefit. We
have been able to garner a higher share of the U.S. market because of that
particular profile and help better the canola industry. Every crop would
have specific requirements in different geographies. It is important that we
continue to find those innovations that make our crops more competitive on a
Senator Eaton: Are there things that you are presently working on
now that are being tested that might have different properties?
Mr. Wispinski: I would use another example, where we are working
on improving the value of the meal from canola. That will make the meal
component in canola more valuable to users of the feed.
That is another innovation example that we hope to bring to market in
2015-16 to make a real value contribution to Canadian agriculture.
Senator Eaton: Going off in another direction, you made a point
saying that you could not emphasize enough that we could not do without the
sound science-based regulatory policies that support a strong innovation
Did you make that point because you feel in some ways that it is being
Mr. Wispinski: It is constantly under challenge, if I can use
those words. Maintaining strong science-based regulation is so very
important. It is easy to advocate based on fear for some groups, and that
challenges, frankly, some of the strong science-based regulations.
Senator Eaton: Are you thinking about Vancouver and Toronto not
allowing pesticides, for instance, and the fear that some people feel about
Mr. Wispinski: I think when there are challenges to science-based
regulation, no matter where it happens, at what level of government, if you
are banning pesticides in an urban environment, the perception is that you
are banning them for safety even though the PMRA has reviewed them from a
The biggest concern that I have with that is, what perception does that
give to our farmers who are using those products in food production where
they are safe and they are absolutely necessary for food production? Yes,
there are some of those challenges that take place.
Senator Eaton: I will ask you the same question I asked the
Monsanto people yesterday. When something like that happens, say in
Vancouver and Toronto — you are too tactful to mention them; I am not —
banning GMO pesticides, do you try to educate the public? Do you go out and
try to promote science-based agriculture and fight back in any way?
Mr. Wispinski: We do try to promote science-based agriculture,
science-based regulation, and defend it at every opportunity we have. It is
very difficult for individual companies or even the industry to be able to
do that in a broad population and really be able to get that message across.
We are continually getting better at it. We are continually getting
better at communicating the science behind our products, but communicating
science to the general public is a challenge. It is an art. We are getting
better at it, but we have a way to go, obviously.
Senator Eaton: Yes. Thank you.
Senator Merchant: Correct me if I am wrong, but are pesticides or
herbicides a little like the flu vaccine? Bugs mutate and adapt to things.
Do you constantly have to change the composition to keep ahead of the game?
This is worrisome to some people because things get into the soil. Do
they break down eventually? Do they just accumulate? What is happening? We
are using more and more pesticides and herbicides. Some people worry about
Mr. Wispinski: I know.
Senator Merchant: It gets into the drinking water or the aquifers.
Maybe you could explain.
Mr. Wispinski: Let me take that in two parts. First, do weeds or
insects become resistant to some pesticides? Certainly, they have. There is
We promote and advocate stewardship practices similar to your analogy of
the medical industry: rotate the types of products you use to control the
pests, to prevent the onset of resistance. That is a critical piece.
Yes, we do need to continue to innovate so that we can stay ahead of the
challenges that are brought by resistance being developed in weeds or
insects. I hope that addresses the first part of your question.
With respect to the second part of your question, when these products are
reviewed by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or regulatory agencies
around the world, they are looking at all aspects of the review, which
include environmental impact and the degradation cycles of the products in
the environment, and those are important parts of a review. As I have said,
the Canadian regulatory review is one of the most stringent in the world,
and we should be very proud of the regulatory regime we have in Canada.
Senator Merchant: What happens, then, to these things that get
into the soil? Do they break down?
Mr. Wispinski: Certainly they break down in the environment, and
part of the review is to make sure that they do.
Senator Merchant: There is this move to organic, and certain
people will only buy organic food now. How do organic farmers survive if
they do not use chemicals and those kinds of things? Do they survive because
there are just a few of them and the market is not very large? How do they
grow crops without using chemicals and pesticides?
Mr. Wispinski: Consumers having a choice is a good thing. Organic
producers generally produce on a smaller scale, although there are some now
that are larger scale and generally more intensive, so there is a higher
cost of production involved. Generally, as you know from the grocery stores,
they also command a premium in the marketplace because of it.
The innovations of agricultural chemicals and crop protection products to
innovations from biotechnology are absolutely essential. They are critical
for us to be able to feed the world. Having choice, where people can afford
the choice, is a good thing.
Senator Merchant: Why are things not more expensive when chemicals
must be expensive? While I understand that you say there is a lot of
competition, here again, to give you an example, when you have only three or
four companies — I am thinking of going to the gas station to buy gas for
the car. There are three or four or five major companies, but the price is
all the same; there does not seem to be competition.
How do you encourage competition when you have these huge players in the
market? It appears there is no competition, just by looking at it from the
Mr. Wispinski: From my perspective, as I said in response to
another question, there is, in my view, very strong competition among the
Farm crop inputs are an important input to crop production, and there is
a cost. The farmers, as I said, are strong businesspeople, and they buy the
products that best fit their needs. Those products give them the best return
for the dollars they spend on inputs. They are making the choice to use
those products because they provide a return and help them with producing
food, and our farmers are among the best in the world. I have great respect
for their abilities to make those economic decisions.
Senator Merchant: Thank you.
Senator Buth: Thank you for being here this morning, Mr.
Wispinski. Frankly, it is good to have somebody talk about the omega-9 oil
story because it has been a remarkable success story.
Mr. Wispinski: Thank you.
Senator Buth: Can you comment on how farmers obtain value from the
Mr. Wispinski: The food companies pay a premium for the oil, for
the benefits that the oil delivers in stability and health profile. That
really gets transferred down into a premium to the growers, and the growers,
on average, are receiving a greater return on Nexera canola than on other
canola. It has a real benefit to them, last year to the tune of about $35 an
acre more, from the data sources we have, in returns to them on their
Senator Buth: What would that be, approximately, in terms of
Mr. Wispinski: Five to 10 per cent improvement on return.
Senator Buth: Thank you. Can you comment on whether or not you
have any collaboration with universities in Canada and with Agriculture
Canada researchers in the past or currently? How do those collaborations
Mr. Wispinski: Thank you, senator. We do have a number of
collaborations with research institutions across Canada, such as Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada and the Plant Biotechnology Institute, which is part of
the National Research Council. We announced collaboration last week or the
week before with the Government of Saskatchewan and the Crop Development
Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and for wheat research at the
University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge. I will miss some,
and I hope I do not offend those organizations that we have collaborations
with by not mentioning them.
They are important. Some are basic science collaborations, some are
testing collaborations and some are joint product development
collaborations, and those are important research investments and initiatives
Senator Buth: How do you deal with intellectual property issues
related to those collaborations?
Mr. Wispinski: They are usually negotiated up front. Clarifying
them is very important. Successful collaborations usually involve sharing of
the benefit, as is inherent in collaborations, and some are royalty-based
structures. Some are purely us investing in order to help do specific parts
of the research, but some are royalty-based structures as well.
Senator Buth: Thank you.
The Chair: As I introduce Senator Oh, I had the opportunity as
chair of the committee to be invited to a Chinese delegation, and one topic
they talked about was agriculture, so Senator Oh, thank you for joining the
Senator Oh: Thank you. Welcome. This is a very interesting topic,
In the last paragraph of your remarks, you mention that we need to boost
agriculture production by 70 per cent over the next 40 years. In the Pacific
Rim, Southeast Asia and Asian countries, such as China and India, there are
huge populations, and as their population increases, there is less and less
good farmland available. In addition, every year they have many natural
disasters that affect agricultural production.
Do we have any special or strategic plan in working with those
governments on the agricultural side? When you look at it, it would be good
for Canadian farmers because the market in those countries will be huge for
the next 40 years. The population in the ASEAN countries alone is comparable
Mr. Wispinski: Senator, you have hit on a couple of very important
points. We do have business operations throughout the Asian countries
playing similar roles to what we do here in Canada, such as taking
innovations and either developing them locally or taking them globally in
order to help bring those innovations to life within those geographies.
It also represents a tremendous opportunity for export countries like
Canada, where the demand will increase significantly. We have the
opportunity and the obligation to drive innovation to help feed that, and we
have a great agricultural structure and great producers in Canada to take
advantage of those market opportunities.
Senator Oh: Thank you.
Senator Rivard: We know that the issuance of a patent does not
guarantee exclusivity to its holder. We know that you may also face
expensive legal proceedings that can also be very lengthy, and all this
results in underinvestment. How can you and the researchers protect
yourselves against this risk that someone will challenge the validity of a
Mr. Wispinski: Patent challenges are part of the landscape and a
part of doing business. When preparing the patent, we spend a lot of time
making sure that the patents are written right to capture the essence of the
novelty of the invention. When they are done in that way, then we work
through the legal system to defend against the challenges. It is important
that there are opportunities for people to challenge patents. Do we always
like it? No, but I think it is an important part of making sure that there
is that balance in the system.
Senator Rivard: I would like to continue discussing the possible
trade agreements with Europe, concerning which Senator Eaton asked some
Your company is already established in certain European countries. You
would not be affected by a possible trade agreement between Canada and the
European Union, in the sense that plants would not be closed in Europe
because Canada can make products at a lower cost. Does the fact that you
have tentacles all over the planet explain why you are not affected, or are
affected to a very small degree, by free trade agreements with other
countries, or, on the contrary, do you believe that trade between Canada and
the European Union could be very advantageous for your company, as regards
Canadian facilities, of course?
Mr. Wispinski: I would have a twofold answer. We applaud free
trade agreements. Free trade agreements help our agricultural commodities
create markets in other geographies. We have a great opportunity, and we are
an export nation when it comes to agriculture, so those free trade
agreements that facilitate that do help Canadian producers and have an
advantage to our Canadian business because of it. At the same time, we will
invest in technologies for different geographies. We invest in advance plant
breeding within the European market. We invest in biotechnology for the
Americas market, because of some of the acceptance.
I applaud the Government of Canada's initiative to be a leader in
low-level presence policies to facilitate trade. I advocated in my comments
about continuing to accelerate efforts to harmonize maximum residue limits,
MRL limits, to facilitate trade and make sure that technology is available
to our Canadian farmers. Those are very important initiatives. As much as
those can be talked about in the free trade agreements that the government
has undertaken, I think that is advantageous to our farmers.
Senator Callbeck: I am trying to clear this up in my own mind. My
understanding is that when one of your competitors, Monsanto, sells seed,
that you have to use their herbicide; is that right?
Mr. Wispinski: In many cases, you would use the herbicide that the
trait does. In some cases, it is the herbicide from that company, but not
Senator Callbeck: I know in your case, it is not. You are
producing seed, and herbicides can be used from other companies, but I
thought with Monsanto that that was not the case. Am I wrong here?
Mr. Wispinski: I cannot probably comment completely on all of
Monsanto's technologies, nor would it be appropriate that I do. In some
cases, where the use of the herbicide is tied to the traits in the seed,
there would be some patents. There are usually alternatives, in many cases.
When the patents expire, then it opens it up to other herbicides to be used.
Other times, it is that the herbicide only works with that trait that is a
part of the seed. The other important thing, senator, is that the growers
have options in which seeds to buy and which trait packages to buy. Part of
the competition is that they are making those choices as a total systems
approach. I hope I am articulating that.
Senator Callbeck: With the herbicides that you sell, you sell some
that go with your seed, but you also sell other herbicides that would go
with Monsanto and other —
Mr. Wispinski: For example, we could sell a form of glyphosate
that can be used on Roundup-ready crops today, whether it is our seed or
Monsanto seed, and that occurs, or alternate herbicides that can go and be
used on those crops. With the weed control system, we intend to sell a
herbicide that is used with that weed control system partly because we have
made advances in the herbicide reducing the volatility and reducing the
drift to improve the stewardship of that, and so we would strongly encourage
the use of that herbicide with the weed control system and the seed that
goes along with that. However, farmers could use other herbicides in that
system as well.
Senator Callbeck: If they want to get the best results, it would
be by buying the products you recommend.
Mr. Wispinski: That would be what we would be promoting,
Senator Callbeck: Yes. Thank you.
Senator Eaton: For this report we are pulling together, when you
are talking about regulations, I think it is important that we include
something about regulations and innovation. You specifically talk about
plants with novel traits and how the regulatory system has fallen behind. We
heard yesterday from Monsanto that Argentina and Brazil have accelerated
their regulatory system and that we are going to start following behind.
What would you like to see happen? What can we put in our report very
specifically about fixing up those regulations, in particular perhaps about
Mr. Wispinski: Canada has a lot to be proud of with the plant with
novel trait registration. It is looked at as a role model for regulation in
the world. I think the biggest thing that we could do is predictable time
line service standards for the review of plants with novel traits.
Senator Eaton: Why are we not doing a good job with plants with
novel traits? Is there something specific to a plant with novel traits? What
is a plant with a novel trait? Is it wheat with extra protein in it or
Mr. Wispinski: It can, in Canada, mean a number of different
things. It is a regulation where a biotech trait goes through as well. If I
take that narrower definition, it is reviewed with multiple departments
within CFIA that need to review that, and, in some cases, with input on the
file from the PMRA. If we can map out the timelines to take that through the
review and get an approval or a modified approval or a not approval through
the system, that allows us then to make commercial plans based upon knowing
what the time lines are. That is important for us to be able to do the
investments behind the scenes that allow us to commercialize that product
Senator Eaton: It is that particular track that we should try to
Mr. Wispinski: Yes.
Senator Maltais: Your company does business all over the world,
particularly in the United States, Canada and to some extent Europe. Have
you had failures, for instance like those of other enterprises when they
released certain products into the air that had an adverse effect on the
production of grains such as corn, wheat, soy or others?
Mr. Wispinski: We have had some incidents that we have
investigated and have dealt with, none that have disrupted trade. We take
great efforts to follow all of the protocols and put stewardship practices
above what the government regulations are to ensure those. Any time that an
incident happens in another company or anywhere in the world, we review all
of our protocols to further strengthen them.
It is an important issue, but, again, I would re-emphasize a really
important point, that biotechnology has been used for over a decade, it has
been used on millions and millions of hectares around the world, and it has
never had a food safety incident to this point.
The protocols are in place; yes, they are very important issues. There is
a tremendous amount of stewardship going on to ensure that that is dealt
with. The innovations are safe and the innovations are critically needed.
Senator Maltais: Are the safety rules you apply to crops in
general in Canada and the United States also applied in Mexico?
Mr. Wispinski: I am not sure I am qualified to answer the specific
rules in Mexico. We take a viewpoint of internal stewardship of following
our protocols, meeting the standards in the country or our protocols,
whichever are most strict. We follow pretty much the same protocols around
the world within our company. I am not in a position to follow up on
specifics in Mexico, but I could get that information and follow up
subsequently for you, senator.
The Chair: If you could provide us the information, it would be
As we conclude, there is one question from the research staff that I
would like to bring to the attention of the president. We know there are
over 17.3 million farmers in the world. We know that Canada has a little
over 290,000 farmers across Canada. With our experience in the world, Canada
is being asked on a regular basis for transfer of technology. We know the
role that you play in this.
Intellectual property rights are sometimes too far-reaching, sometimes
can be harmful to innovation and also can have the challenge of prohibitive
costs for buyers of the particular product. Do you have any comments, Mr.
Wispinski, in terms of the agricultural biotechnology sector, whether
Canada's current intellectual property system, with your experience and the
experience of your company, stimulates or curbs innovation?
Mr. Wispinski: Our Canadian intellectual property laws do a good
job of stimulating innovation. It is important that we continue to focus on
ensuring that they are competitive on a global basis. We work hard, I work
hard, to try to attract research from our global organization to be done in
Canada, to be done on crops that are important to Canada. It is very
important that our intellectual property system is competitive.
In many cases, it is; in some areas I think there are opportunities, as I
mentioned in the seeds area, where we can further improve, and we need to
continue to review it on an ongoing basis to ensure that we are staying
competitive with our intellectual property system.
The Chair: Do you have any closing comments?
Mr. Wispinski: My closing comment would be to reiterate my opening
comment. Congratulations to you, Mr. Chair, and all senators for looking at
innovation. It is obviously a subject that is very near to my heart and I am
passionate about because, as I said, innovation in agriculture has never
been more needed than it is today and the opportunity, because of the
advances in the science, has never been greater than it is today.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to present.
The Chair: The committee thanks you for being here with us.