Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 28 - Evidence - Meeting of February 5, 2013
OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
5:04 p.m. to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the
agricultural sector (topics: the impact of investment at the federal level
on industry players from an academic perspective; and innovation in the
agriculture and agri-food sector from the producers' perspective.)
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry. My name is Percy Mockler, a senator from New Brunswick and
chair of the committee. I would ask all senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Mercer: Terry Mercer, from the north end of Halifax.
Senator Robichaud: Good afternoon. My name is Fernand Robichaud,
and I am a senator from Saint-Louis-de- Kent, in New Brunswick.
Senator Merchant: Pana Merchant, from Saskatchewan.
Senator Callbeck: Catherine Callbeck, from Prince Edward Island.
Senator Plett: Don Plett, from Manitoba.
Senator Buth: JoAnne Buth, from Manitoba.
Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton, from Toronto.
Senator Maltais: My name is Ghislain Maltais, and I am a senator
Senator Michel Rivard: Good afternoon. My name is Michel Rivard. I
am a senator from The Laurentides, Quebec.
The Chair: I take this opportunity on behalf of the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to thank today's two witnesses
for accepting our invitation to share their thoughts, recommendations and
views on the committee's order of reference: that the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be authorized to examine and report on
research and innovation efforts in the agricultural sector. In particular,
the committee shall be authorized to examine research and development
efforts in the context of developing new markets domestically and
internationally, enhancing agricultural sustainability, and improving food
diversity and security.
Our witnesses today, from the University of Saskatchewan, are Dr. Reuben
Mapletoft, Distinguished Professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical
Sciences, and Dr. Sheila Schmutz, Department of Animal and Poultry Science.
Thank you for accepting our invitation.
I invite the witnesses to make their presentations, followed by questions
from senators. Dr. Schmutz will make her presentation first to be followed
by Dr. Mapletoft.
Sheila Schmutz, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University
of Saskatchewan: Thank you for inviting us to present. We appreciate the
invitation. I believe that you have received our speaking notes. I will
address briefly what I have organized into three topics, the first of which
is potentially marketing more livestock to Europe. Following on the
procedure of the CETA, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement that seems to be moving
forward, there will be an increased chance to trade with Europe. At present,
we have a piece of legislation that Canadians should be very proud of: the
Animal Pedigree Act. Perhaps this act has not received the prominence and
importance that it has in recent years, but it provides us with a unique
opportunity to trade all of our purebred livestock with Europe on a very
good level because they have similar legislation, which our neighbours to
the south do not have. We have a better standing in that regard.
The other trade issue I would like to bring forward is the use of
hormones in beef cattle, which is a barrier to trade with Europe. New
technologies would suggest that some of these hormones or growth promotants
are making some of our meat tougher, and not all feedlot cattle are being
fed them anymore. Both Australia and New Zealand have figured out a
mechanism by which Europe will accept a portion of their cattle without
accepting all of their cattle so that producers who choose to go the
no-hormone route would have an opportunity in this new market.
The second topic I would like to address is one that I refer to as
"urban agriculture." For a long time, many people have thought of
horticulture as an important part of agriculture in the growing of
vegetables and fruits. People behind us in the next panel will address
fruit-growing on a larger scale. To me, urban agriculture really means small
backyard gardens, community gardens and the opportunity for local
improvement of fresh produce during the summer months to people in more
remote communities that might not have access to this. This may improve the
health of Canadians, particularly in the North, where they could have access
to such types of growing. In addition, in many cities the planting of trees
and beautification is not only an important project but also will help us to
reduce our carbon footprint, which is of concern to many Canadians.
Increased pet ownership has often gone unnoticed and is not really
considered part of agriculture. However, with the aging population in Canada
and throughout the world, many studies suggest that pet ownership actually
decreases the chance of depression, increases the opportunity for exercise,
and reduces blood pressure. This is seen particularly in the aging
population where this seems to be an important role. The mandate for
agriculture could include domesticated animals as well.
The final point I would like to make relates to research funding. You
would be surprised if an academic appeared before you and did not say that
we were very pleased that NSERC and funding agencies in Canada are doing an
excellent job of providing both basic research and applied research. I would
like to illustrate with a story from my situation that would suggest that
even we researchers cannot always distinguish which is basic and which is
applied. I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up in a small town. I did not
have any degree in agriculture but was given the opportunity to study the
genetics of cattle, and colleagues like Reuben Mapletoft helped me to
advance in that regard, as did some of my own graduate students. In one
basic study, we studied a gene called leptin that is important in the fat
deposition pathway. It changes how much and how quickly cattle put on fat. I
had no idea how to market this particular item. I assumed that maybe
purebred breeders might select for certain cattle for niche markets that
wanted leaner or fatter cattle. One of my graduate students at the time,
Leigh Marquess, ended up starting a small company called Quantum Genetix,
and he applied it in an entirely different way. He is now marketing his
product to many feedlots that sort cattle on the basis of their actual
leptin genotype, and they can better predict which market the cattle fit
into. In turn, Leigh gave money to our own lab to do further research, and
that was matched by the Collaborative Research and Development program, an
industry-oriented grant. He in turn benefited from SR&ED tax credits to have
funded research and development, which actually caused more graduate
students to be hired. His small company has blossomed, and it has taken me
full circle back to European trade because, when the flax GMO crisis erupted
a couple of years ago, his was the first lab in Canada to take on the
challenge to test for the GMO flax to make sure that we could maintain our
flax market to Europe.
I thank you very much, and I welcome your questions and comments.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I will now ask Dr. Mapletoft to
Dr. Reuben Mapletoft, Distinguished Professor, Department of Large
Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan: Thank you for your
invitation to appear. I prepared notes for you, which I presume you have
before you. I timed how long it would take me to go through those notes, and
it was 27 minutes. Therefore, I have decided that perhaps, in the interests
of time, I ought to go directly to the summary at the end and highlight some
of the points there and perhaps expand on two or three. That is what I will
The first point I want to talk about is point No. 3, that research
designed to increase food production must also include storage,
transportation and distribution of food. Despite the need to increase food
production to feed the growing world population, we have already
accomplished a great deal through our investments in agricultural research.
For example, productivity on the Canadian prairies has increased 300 per
cent over the last 70 years. I would submit to you that we are already doing
a great deal with our investments in agriculture. We have to do better with
the food we already produce.
Point No. 4 is that we must ensure that future research efforts and
selection and management schemes utilize the natural advantage that
ruminants have in sustainable production of meat and milk. It has been
suggested to me by people from Third World countries that what they really
need is more protein. Many of them produce sufficient carbohydrates already.
In this regard, I think meat, eggs and milk will be an important part of
diets around the world in the future. Ruminants will play an important role
there. By ruminants, I mean cattle, sheep and goats. They have four
stomachs. Their digestive system is microbial fermentation, so they are able
to take very low-quality roughage and convert it to high-quality edible
protein. I think this will be an important factor in the future.
Point No. 5: Canada should increase investment in research and
development, especially in agriculture. Rates of return on investments in
agricultural research have been reported to be around 500 per cent over a
10-year period. However, it would seem that agriculture research is of a
relatively low priority. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council of Canada has taken agriculture off its priority list. Now, in their
defence, they say that agricultural topics do fit into several of their
other categories, but the fact is that agriculture is no longer considered a
Point No. 6: NSERC Discovery Grants are the cornerstone of agricultural
research, and financial support should be increased. For university people,
NSERC is the primary source of national funds for their research, and the
NSERC Discovery Grants are especially important. Why are they important?
Well, the big reason is that NSERC Discovery Grants allow us to do
fundamental curiosity-driven research. So much of our research today has to
be end-point driven, and yet, discovery really depends on that curiosity,
the willingness to pursue the unknown. We have maintained that NSERC
Discovery Grants must continue and must have increased funding, and Dr.
Schmutz alluded to a specific case in her lab where an NSERC Discovery Grant
led to a spinoff company and several other things.
Point No. 8: NSERC must increase financial support for the training of
high-quality personnel. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows
represent our future, and yet financial support is inadequate. As a result,
we are losing our brightest and our best. They are going into other
professions where the opportunities are greater. They are also going to
other countries where early-stage careers can be developed. We just do not
have enough positions for our new graduates.
Point No. 9: The bureaucracy and paperwork associated with the
administration of research grants should be reviewed. At the University of
Saskatchewan, the administrative cost of research has increased more than
300 per cent over the last 10 years. In research services alone, staff
numbers have gone from 10 to 70 in the last seven years, and this is due in
large part to the need for compliance. I would not want to suggest for a
moment that researchers not be accountable, but the time and money consumed
in this process are enormous.
Point No. 10: Research initiatives directed toward embryo pathogen
interactions, especially as applied to the utilization of new reproductive
technologies, should continue. I discussed this at some length in the longer
document, but I have just learned that the last member of a once outstanding
research team in Nepean, working in this area, is about to retire and that
the program will not be continued. Disease continues to be an important
concern. The international movement of embryos is an important factor, and
the application of new reproductive technologies is very, very important to
our breeding programs in the future. I think that we must continue this work
to ensure that infectious diseases are controlled with the use of our
assisted reproductive technologies.
The last point, No. 11, that I want to discuss is that regulatory
officials should take decisive action, where scientific evidence supports
it, to allow animals produced by assisted reproductive technologies to enter
the food chain.
I am referring specifically to cloned animals and transgenic animals. The
International Embryo Transfer Society, in reviewing cloned animals, found
that meat from cloned animals posed no risk to human health. The Food and
Drug Administration of the United States looked at this critically and said
that meat and milk from cloned animals constituted no health risk. Yet
Canada, after several years of study, has not made a decision on this. The
same thing applies to transgenic animals. The Enviropig project at the
University of Guelph has been terminated because those animals are unlikely
to enter the food chain because of the lack of regulations in this regard. I
guess I would like to suggest that, in order for Canada to maintain its
place as a leader in the application of these technologies in animal
breeding programs, our regulatory officials must be prepared to make hard
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you. I would also like to recognize, for the
record, the presence of Senator Duffy, who has just joined us.
Senator Plett: Thank you again, both of you, for appearing. Dr.
Mapletoft, I think it is unfortunate that we could not hear a 27-minute
presentation and have a little more than the summary at the end.
Let me try a few questions. I will start with Dr. Schmutz, if I could. I
would like to talk just a little more, please, about your comments about
hormones in our animals. I think you said Europeans do not accept our meat
that has hormones in it. Am I correct?
Ms. Schmutz: Yes, senator, that is correct.
Senator Plett: Australia and New Zealand have done away with at
least part, or all?
Ms. Schmutz: I unfortunately put linked notes that you did not get
in your hard copies. Both Australia and New Zealand have established
programs in which the proportion of their animal production that does not
use hormones has access to the European market. They were not able to
convince their producers to stop using hormones entirely. In Canada, we seem
to have just accepted that because some of our producers use them, none of
them will have access to Europe. We have not really pushed that initiative.
Senator Plett: So we send no meat to Europe?
Ms. Schmutz: We send no beef to Europe.
Senator Plett: We are talking strictly beef here.
Ms. Schmutz: We are talking strictly beef, as far as I know.
Senator Plett: Can you tell me why we are not making moves in that
Ms. Schmutz: The feedlot owners, to the best of my understanding,
would say that it is in their best interests to grow the animals as large
and as fast as they possibly can. They believe the hormones help make that
happen faster. Even though the hormones do cost them additional money, they
still say the cost-benefit analysis to them is worth their using the
hormones. It does make the meat tougher, and they do acknowledge that, but
they say they do not get paid for tenderness, they get paid for weight.
Senator Plett: I personally think we have some pretty good steaks
in Canada, but perhaps if I would eat an Australian steak I might be
happier. I am not sure. We obviously must have enough of a market. If we did
not, would that not drive this?
Ms. Schmutz: I am not an economist, so I hesitate to say too much,
but my understanding is that as our dollar has risen, our major market to
the south has shrunk. They were interested in our beef in the U.S. primarily
when it was cheaper, but now that it is costing at least as much as their
beef, they of course will support their own local product first. Currently,
we have lost a considerable share of our previous market to the U.S. That,
riding on the BSE crisis of a few years ago from which we have never fully
recovered, has been a problem.
Senator Plett: It might encourage some of the feedlot owners to
change their mind.
Ms. Schmutz: Perhaps.
Senator Plett: Doctor, I have never heard before that pet
ownership should be part of agriculture. I may be wrong, but I thought that
whatever is in agriculture, we eat. I am sure you are not promoting that.
How would you make cats and dogs part of agriculture?
Ms. Schmutz: If we are going to say that trees and flowers are
part of horticulture, which is part of agriculture, the analogy could be
that horses, which we do not typically eat in Canada, although a few people
do and they are commonly eaten in France, are now classified as companion
animals, and so are dogs and cats. In a university setting, a biology
department studies wild animals, but they do not really study pet animals
that are also domesticated species. Many current agriculture schools
throughout the world have widened their mandate to include all domesticated
animals, to include cats and dogs and horses, not just cattle and pigs and
Senator Plett: Thank you for your answer. I am not sure that we
are on the same page yet, but I certainly appreciate that.
Dr. Mapletoft, I have really just two questions. You talked about your
priority here being that research to increase food production is necessary
but must also include storage, transportation and distribution of food. Are
we not doing that?
Dr. Mapletoft: I made that point because just about every place
you look nowadays you will see that we are producing probably enough food
for 9 billion people, yet we are told repeatedly that we are wasting about
half of it. I am trying to suggest that, yes, okay, let us increase food
production for this growing world population, but let us also make better
use of what we are producing right now. Our investments in agriculture have
paid tremendous dividends over the last 50 years, and this is the proof of
Senator Plett: Fair enough. I have not read your whole
presentation, and I hope I will be able to do that, but you make a list of
recommendations here. This is a comment rather than a question. In each
case, there is nothing really specific. Canada should increase investment,
financial support should be increased, increased financial support for
training, with no percentages or numbers, just pie-in-the-sky increases. I
am sure that is not what you intend, and maybe the presentation itself has a
better explanation to it.
Dr. Mapletoft: I would hope that the document itself does have a
great deal more information on each of those points. It really is a summary
point of each section that I wrote in in the document. I also have to
confess to you that this document was written while I was traveling in
Europe, so I did not have access to some of the details that I wanted at
that particular time. As a matter of fact, I added some additional details
in my oral presentation today that were not in that document. Perhaps I have
a bit more now than I had when I wrote that.
Senator Plett: Let me just suggest, with the indulgence of the
chair, that if you have any information for us that would give us numbers,
we would appreciate that, and I think the chair would welcome your sending
that through the clerk. Thank you very much.
Senator Mercer: Thank you both for being here. It was an
informative presentation. I apologize for the fact that we could not hear
all 27 minutes, because I am sure it would have enlightened us. I do like
the fact that you have given us 12 points, and I want to ask you about a
couple of them.
Item No. 3 is that research to increase food production must also include
storage, transportation and distribution of food. With respect to that, is
there some detailed research going on with storage and transportation? In my
other committee, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and
Communications, we have talked about the movement of containers across the
country. We have heard in this committee that the availability of proper
transportation at the proper place and at the proper time creates a huge
problem in agriculture. When a crop is ready to be shipped from Saskatchewan
to the Port of Vancouver or the Port of Halifax, if the containers are not
there or the trains are not there at the right time, the quality of the food
deteriorates as time passes by. Are you suggesting that part of the academic
research should cover that as well?
Dr. Mapletoft: I have to confess that I am not an expert in that
area, so this is more of an opinion than anything else, but I was again
trying to make the case that we have to do better with what we are presently
producing. That was just one of the aspects that I thought was important.
Senator Mercer: I think your comment about half the food in the
world being wasted is a very good one. We continue to have this 9 billion
target in front of us, and we will have to feed the people.
With respect to Item No. 9, the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with
the administration of research grants should be reviewed, you talk about the
numbers increasing over the last number of years from 10 to 70 people
required to do that. I am assuming as someone who has been on the periphery
in part of my career in helping to fund various organizations I worked for
that there is a peer review process that goes on with respect to the grants
applied for. Is the problem in the review that is done by peers? Is it the
peer review process, or is it somewhere in between there and the university?
Someone has an idea and wants to pursue the research so they put together a
proposal that they think is solid, and if the peer reviewers saw it they may
think it is solid as well, but in the middle there are many people who want
compliance with some hurdles that may or may not be necessary.
Dr. Mapletoft: That is not what I was trying to suggest. It had to
do with the administration of the grants themselves.
I mentioned in my longer document that the NSERC Discovery Grants are
relatively bureaucracy-free, and researchers like that. Once they get the
grant they can go ahead and work on it. They have five years to produce
results or they have to go in another direction. It is primarily associated
with the administration of the grant at the local level.
Senator Mercer: Is that at the university level?
Dr. Mapletoft: Yes.
Senator Mercer: It is your problem as opposed to government's
problem, or the granter's problem.
Dr. Mapletoft: It is government's problem because the government
is asking us to meet certain requirements, and on certain grants, for
example, you are required to give a progress report every six months. You
are spending all your time doing progress reports and no time doing
Senator Mercer: I am concerned about one thing you told us, and I
wonder if they give insight as to why. Why does NSERC not have agriculture
as a priority anymore? Did they enlighten you?
Dr. Mapletoft: I have to confess that I am not in the know. Dr.
Schmutz served on NSERC committees and she may have some insight into that.
It seems that other things had higher priority, and it changes from time to
time, and that may be the reason.
Do you have anything to add?
Ms. Schmutz: All I can say that in the strategic program of NSERC
they normally pick five key areas; and, as Dr. Mapletoft says, that does
periodically change. Both of us were known at a time as biotechnology
people, and biotechnology was on probably 10 or 15 years ago and is off now.
I have not followed the strategic program well enough to tell you when
agriculture came off the list.
Senator Mercer: Mr. Chair, perhaps it might be a good idea in the
future that we talk to NSERC specifically about that issue.
Dr. Schmutz, you say some growth promotants currently used in beef cattle
make the meat tougher. We have some experts on both sides of this table on
beef consumption. Most of us say that much of the beef we consume is fairly
tender. You have made this reference and so I assume there is some
scientific study behind this that determines that the use of growth hormones
does make the beef tougher.
Ms. Schmutz: Yes, senator; again, because of the way I referenced
with hot links instead of numbers, there were references. In the study of
meat science I have consulted with a few of my colleagues on meat science. I
visited the meat science department at Texas A&M University where they were
studying it, and it seems to be fairly well documented that this zilpaterol,
which is the most popular growth promotant at the moment, does actually make
the meat tougher. This is not to say that we do not have a good-quality
steak. I am saying it could be even better if we did not use that product.
Senator Mercer: If we are out there competing in a world that does
not have growth promotants, then we are assuming the beef is tenderer.
Ms. Schmutz: Yes, for example, certain packing plants or
slaughterhouses have decided that they are going to go for a higher-quality
beef as opposed to a large production of beef. Those particular packing
plants are saying to their order buyers that they do not want cattle that
have been fed zilpaterol coming through their slaughter plant because they
have perceived this decrease in quality as well.
Senator Robichaud: What proportion of cattle is fed hormones
compared to the non-injected cattle?
Ms. Schmutz: I tried hard to get that information so I could give
you a number. It would certainly be well over half, but whether it is
verging on two thirds or three quarters I cannot answer because many of the
smaller feedlots are not using it, but the larger feedlots that have a
highly sophisticated management system are more likely the ones that would
be using it and they do not necessarily like to talk about it.
Dr. Mapletoft: I would like to make a comment, please. We have to
remember that growth implants or growth supplements are a lot of different
things. On one hand we talk about steroid hormones, on the other hand we
talk about metabolic hormones and feed supplements, so there are many
different things. As Dr. Schmutz indicated earlier, our market was based on
the U.S. for many years and so we produced what the Americans wanted. We
have lost that market and now we are looking elsewhere.
The Europeans, in my opinion, have used steroid hormone implants as a
non-tariff trade barrier, but we have to live with it for the very same
reasons. New Zealand has had to stop using steroid hormones in their dairy
cattle because the Europeans said, "We will not buy your milk if you do
not." It is a very complex issue.
Senator Rivard: Dr. Mapletoft, I had an opportunity to read your
brief, and I would like to draw your attention to the last paragraph, where
you talk about the food safety issue, and the E. coli 0157 vaccine in
particular. You dislike the fact that the vaccine is not mandatory.
Is there an economic study showing what the additional cost would be —
per gram or per pound — if that vaccine were mandatory? We do have to
remember that consumers end up paying. If that vaccine were made mandatory,
would production costs or the sale price increase, and by what percentage?
Are there any economic studies that demonstrate that?
In the last paragraph of your report, under your 12 recommendations — you
stopped at 11 earlier — that could be part of the twelfth recommendation. I
think it should have been the first or second recommendation, instead of the
Dr. Mapletoft: First, thank you very much for reading it.
I have mixed feelings on that last point. Food safety is a tremendously
important issue. I also admit in my document that I consult with the company
that developed that vaccine, so I have mixed feelings about recommending
this. I ended up suggesting that we need a food safety policy, and probably
the vaccine would be part of that scenario. Many other factors have to be
considered as well.
As for costs, I have not studied this in great detail and I cannot tell
you whether the study had been done, but I can tell you quickly that
probably the vaccine would increase the cost of an animal by $25 or $30, so
it is not large when you consider the safety issues.
Senator Merchant: Dr. Mapletoft, you have just answered the
question that I had underlined in your 12 points, so now I will go to Dr.
I am interested in dogs. You are doing some research on dogs and you said
that it is a quality-of-life issue for an aging population, that dogs are a
good thing for people to have. My question is related to the research you
are doing at the University of Saskatchewan. Healthy dogs are good to have,
but there are dogs that have some genetic defects, such as hip dysplasia or
eye problems. Are you concentrating on that kind of thing? Are you doing
some research? I will mention two or three points. Is there some trade in
dogs? I know that the Japanese like to get Shetland sheep dogs because they
are small and easy to keep. Is there a trade benefit with dogs? Are you
working on the Munsterlander hunting dogs?
Ms. Schmutz: Actually, my research is on an economically important
trait that is not to do with health. It is coat colour, which may sound
unusual. In many breeds, in compliance with the Animal Pedigree Act, dogs
have to be specific coat colours. Certain dogs, such as Doberman Pinschers,
have health issues related to skin allergies because of the mutation that
causes one of their coat colours and side issues on health. I study that,
but it is a basic research part of my lab in terms of pigmentation, which
has been commercialized. A lab in Toronto offers those tests, and many labs
in other parts of the world, including the U.S., Europe and Australia, have
picked up those tests as well. I never patented those tests, which are in
wide use now; and I am happy that they are in wide use. The pet ownership
population feels that they are of some value to them.
The trade would be in those tests and the laboratories that market them.
There is some trade in dogs between countries, but I am not particularly
well versed in that. The Animal Pedigree Act will protect us. The pedigree
that my husband and I breed, the Large Munsterlander, which you mentioned,
meets the APA requirements, as does the European stock. We would not be able
to source quality breeding stock from Europe if we did not have such an act.
We are willing to adhere to that act.
Senator Eaton: Dr. Schmutz, it will be interesting, if Canada ends
up signing a free trade agreement with the EU, to see what the effect will
be. Perhaps farmers in Canada will say no to growth hormones and other
growth promotants. Do you see that happening? Will the marketplace drive
them out of use?
Ms. Schmutz: I am not convinced that they will eliminate their
use. I am trying to urge the use of a mechanism so that we could somehow
certify the producers who are not using them so they would have access to
the European market. Even if we have only one quarter of the producers not
using them, it would be useful for them to have access to the European
market. If a few people have access, it might influence other people to
Senator Eaton: If we had a certification, like with GMO foods.
Ms. Schmutz: Yes. Australia and New Zealand use mostly growth
hormone, but they have a government certification program such that
producers who do not use the hormone are able to access the European market.
Senator Eaton: We need a certification program.
Ms. Schmutz: That is what I would urge.
Senator Eaton: That could be one of the recommendations we put in
Dr. Mapletoft, you talk about not attracting young people to agriculture.
Does agriculture need to be recast in a different mode? All we hear about
today in universities is the need for science and math. However, much of
agriculture, agricultural research and horticulture is science. Do we have
to recast it to make it sexier? Do people see that agriculture is not the
same old farm that it was 100 years ago — all manual labour, passed-on
wisdom, and not scientifically based?
Dr. Mapletoft: You misunderstood my point. I was referring to
science. We are losing our best young people from science all together.
Senator Eaton: From all sciences, not just agriculture. I am
Dr. Mapletoft: It is already pretty sexy.
Senator Eaton: My question is moot. Let us move on to something
Does the EU allow cloned or transgenic animals to enter the food chain?
Dr. Mapletoft: This is currently under study, so they have not
allowed them yet.
Senator Eaton: Does India, Japan or Korea allow them? I am trying
to think of future markets where we are trying to promote trade deals.
Dr. Mapletoft: I do not know the answer to that. I would suspect
not. The U.S. was probably the first country to allow cloned animals.
Discussions are going on in the U.S. concerning transgenic salmon. It will
be precedent-setting once it is decided.
Senator Eaton: Will you be comfortable eating transgenic salmon?
Dr. Mapletoft: Yes. We have been eating transgenic plants for some
30 years. What makes animals any different?
Senator Eaton: I am not sure.
Senator Plett: Where are we losing science students to?
Dr. Mapletoft: Business. My son has a PhD in immunology, and he
has gone into business. Students are going into the veterinary profession,
and we cannot get them out of practice. The sciences are just not an easy
career. They are not lucrative careers. Also, many of our Ph.D. students
went to countries like New Zealand to find research jobs because we do not
have them in Canada. It is a complex issue. I would say that business in
particular is taking our brightest young students.
Ms. Schmutz: At the undergraduate level, I am pleased to say that
in the last three years the agriculture student population in Canada has
dramatically increased. Senator Eaton made an excellent comment about the
change in the view of more science. I agree totally that at the higher level
of education it is a problem. However, I am encouraged by the number of
bright young people entering agriculture. At our university, we have a
problem in that we do not have the space to teach them all; but we consider
it a good problem to have.
Senator Robichaud: You mentioned in your brief that there are
several new assisted reproductive technology schemes, including cloning.
Explain where the advantages are. It is an artificial process, is it not? It
is not natural.
Dr. Mapletoft: I suppose in the simplest sense, identical twins
are clones; and that is a natural process.
At the International Embryo Transfer Society meeting just held in Europe,
there was a practitioner session when various regions of the world talked
about what was going to happen in the near future. The person who presented
from Europe had a very interesting take on this, I thought.
They were doing everything in the lab. They were cloning, producing
embryos with stem cells and doing transgenics. They kept replicating this
within the lab until they got the genetic makeup they wanted; and then they
produced an animal out of it. I am not saying it is a fait accompli. This is
what they are projecting they will do. This is the type of thing that we
might well see in the future.
Senator Robichaud: Why do we need that? Can we not produce what we
need the way we are doing it now? What advantage would it be to agriculture
Dr. Mapletoft: When you produce an animal or an embryo of a
specific genetic makeup, cloning techniques can be used to increase their
numbers. That would probably be the primary use, but it can be done in a
lab. You do not necessarily have to produce cloned animals.
The Starbuck bull was produced with the idea of increasing semen
production from the original Starbuck. That is still probably not a bad
idea, but people in the dairy industry tell us that genetics are moving so
fast that, by the time you produce a clone, probably the genetics are
outdated in any case.
It is more of a laboratory technique that can be used, as part of the
whole series of techniques, for genetic improvement.
Senator Robichaud: Thank you.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much for being here. It has been an
interesting discussion. I want to follow up on the cloning part of it. My
impression is that you are saying that we can see improvements with cloned
animals so that, if you get a specific animal that has high milk production
or the best meat, cloning that animal allows you to increase that genetic
makeup and get more animals that have that specific improvement in terms of
milk production, et cetera.
Dr. Mapletoft: Yes, that is true. Cloning itself does not
constitute genetic improvement. It is simply reproducing what we already
have that we have created or that exists in nature. It is just producing
more of the same.
Senator Buth: I was interested in your comment that different
countries are looking at cloning and whether clones should be allowed into
the food system.
I think there is misperception out there regarding whether or not
something is safe versus something that we are doing artificially. I have a
lot of background in GMO canola. Coming from that area, there has always
been this issue of an immediate decision by the general public — usually
with a lot of misinformation from some groups — that something is not safe.
I am wondering if you can maybe talk about science versus perception
because you clearly have some experience in embryo technology.
Dr. Mapletoft: Your point is well made. Perhaps I should have had
another point and called it education. Misinformation seems to be something
that is more readily accepted than scientific information. Yes, we will have
our special interest groups and the radicals that will misinform the public,
but I do not think we can make our decisions based on that. We have to make
science-based decisions. If I had a recommendation to make, it would be just
that. We are caught in that very issue with genetically modified animals and
cloned animals right now.
The science says that there is no worry, and yet we are hesitant to act
because of the misinformation that exists among the public.
Senator Buth: Thank you for that.
I would like to go back to the hormone issue and back to this issue of
I appreciate your comment, Dr. Mapletoft, regarding the EU using this as
a technical trade barrier.
Can you tell us what countries are using hormones and what countries
accept beef animals that have used hormones and compare that to what the EU
Ms. Schmutz: To the best of my knowledge, Canada and the U.S. use
growth promotants in many of their beef cattle. New Zealand uses a smaller
proportion but does use some, and Australia does as well. Then we quickly
run out of beef growing countries.
We have beef growing in South America, but the beef growing in Europe is
more amalgamated with their dairy production. Many of the male animals not
used for milk production become their meat. They do not really have a beef
feedlot system as we do. It is perhaps because of a different idea about
that, but they did reject the hormones in the milk as well. To the best of
my knowledge, none of the European countries use them. Dr. Mapletoft travels
more in South America than I do, so he might know better about the
regulations there. That is all I know.
Senator Buth: In these beef producing countries like Canada, the
U.S., Australia and New Zealand, the hormone has been researched and deemed
to be safe?
Ms. Schmutz: It is believed to be safe from an educational point
of view, but, again, one can skin the cat many ways. Some of the hormones
that enter our water system near big feedlots could be a problem if they are
estrogenic or androgenic. The growth promotants I am talking about are not
so much. We know that some of the hormones that are given to cattle, if they
are accidentally given to cows that you hope to breed, will make them
sterile. They have tremendous effects on that particular animal. There is a
body of scientists who would say that the meat is certainly safe, but the
idea that the use of the hormones is totally safe in our environment would
be disputed by some others.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much.
Dr. Mapletoft: I was going to make a comment about South America.
I spend a lot of time in South America. When it comes to Europe, I think
that South America gets a free pass on a lot of things, soybeans in
Of course, Europeans are quite firm about genetically modified plants.
There are genetically modified soybeans grown in Brazil and Argentina, and
yet they send soybeans to Europe without any problems at all. There are many
issues here that are not necessarily science-based.
Senator Mercer: I have a very quick supplementary just to sort of
close the loop. Two of our big competitors in the beef industry are
Argentina and Brazil. Do they allow growth promotants and hormones in their
beef, and are they limited in their exports to Europe because of that?
Dr. Mapletoft: I cannot answer that; I do not know. They have
other problems related to export. The Government of Argentina will not allow
them to export beef because they have to maintain low beef prices within the
country. As far as I know, they do not use growth promotants.
Senator Mercer: Perhaps we could ask our researcher to look at
The Chair: Yes. We can also submit the question to the witnesses,
and they can get back to us through the clerk.
Senator Callbeck: Ms. Schmutz, in your presentation and your
document that you sent us before, you mentioned leptin, the research that
you did and the way that is now used at some feedlots. How widespread is it
Ms. Schmutz: Well, in Canada, we tend to refer to an area around
Brooks, Alberta, as "feedlot alley" because the largest concentration of
feedlots in Canada is there. More than half the cattle are fed there, and in
that area, probably only half of the feedlots are using it.
In the U.S., the largest feedlot is in Texas. It is Cactus Feeders, and
it is also using it. In the State of Washington, several feedlots are using
In terms of the whole market, it would still probably be less than 20 per
cent, but, again, smaller feedlots do not always take up technology as
quickly as very large feedlots do. In the very large feedlots, it would be a
higher proportion, but, if we consider the whole, I doubt that in your area
anyone is using it.
Senator Callbeck: If you are talking about the larger ones,
roughly what percentage? You say that overall it is probably 20 per cent.
Ms. Schmutz: In Feedlot Alley in Alberta, about 50 per cent of the
large feedlots are using it. Texas is mostly owned by one guy, and he is the
only one, so that would be 100 per cent, but that is not really fair because
he owns everything.
Senator Callbeck: Why would there not be more of the larger
feedlots in Alberta using it?
Ms. Schmutz: I would say that in terms of economics, they would
have worked out that they were not sure that the testing system that they
had to pay for gave them enough benefit. They alternatively could have been
selling to packing houses that were into mass production as opposed to
quality production. The packing plants differ, and different feedlots have
different packing plants that they tend to supply. If you are mostly mass
producing to a packing plant that is not paying extra for quality or using
grid pricing, it may not be of economic benefit to that feedlot.
Senator Callbeck: How long did it take before the research that
you did in the lab was picked up by the feedlots?
Ms. Schmutz: It was a minimum of 10 years before the first few
feedlots started using it, and that research is now at least 15 years old.
Senator Callbeck: What can be done to try to speed up the time
from when something is found in the lab until it is actually put into use?
Ms. Schmutz: I admit in my report that one of them is a flop. One
of the problems is that what you do in a small research setting often looks
very promising, but you have to go in baby steps to a few large-scale
commercial feedlots in different areas, and then you have to finally
convince bigger consumers. I am not convinced that you could hope that a
basic research finding in a lab would really make it to market in less than
about five to seven years.
Senator Callbeck: Five to seven is a big improvement on ten.
Ms. Schmutz: True.
Dr. Mapletoft: I think she is being very optimistic in five to
seven. I think she has done incredibly well in ten years. I would say it is
probably more likely 15 to 20 years.
Senator Callbeck: Do you see things we can do to decrease that
Dr. Mapletoft: We are assuming that every discovery is going to be
an important one. I think that is the critical issue. It takes years of
testing under different circumstances. As Dr. Schmutz pointed out, she
thought she had a winner and she did not. She could have gotten down the
road a long way there for naught.
The Chair: To both doctors, thank you very much. In the event that
we want additional information, we might correspond with you through the
clerk so that you can give us additional information.
The committee will now have the opportunity to hear two other witnesses.
We have, by video conference, Dela Erith, Executive Director of the Nova
Scotia Fruit Growers' Association, and from the Ontario Apple Growers, Brian
Gilroy, Chair. We are informed that the first presenter will be the video
conference, the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association, to be followed by
Mr. Gilroy, and we will then move to the question period.
Dela Erith, Executive Director, Nova Scotia Fruit Growers'
Association: Good evening, members of the Senate committee. Thank you
very much for inviting the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association to present
to you. The fruit growers' association is a not-for-profit, incorporated
entity that has represented the Nova Scotia tree fruit industry, which means
packers, growers and processors, continuously since 1863. Its purpose is to
assist its members in the growth and development of an economically and
environmentally sustainable industry.
The Nova Scotia crop includes apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries.
Apple is the predominant crop. Nova Scotia produces 9 per cent of the
Canadian apple crop. The farm gate value for apples is $14 million,
contributing $70 million to the Nova Scotia economy.
To stimulate the apple sector in Nova Scotia, in 2001 the NSFGA developed
a long-term industry vitalization program. This strategy includes six
activity pillars overarched by science and innovation. There are many vital
components that influence the long-term success of the sector, components
such as climate, grower expertise, input costs, markets and new technology,
as well as consistent access to credible, third-party science that is
positioned in close proximity to the industry.
Over the last 10 years, the implementation of the strategy has restored a
level of profitability to the progressive farms. Young people are entering
the sector, enthusiasm has been restored, and Nova Scotia growers feel that
there is a future in their apple businesses.
The financial risks of continuous business adaptation are high, and there
are significant ongoing challenges connected with attaining and maintaining
a fully profitable sector, such as having a strong science and innovation
In 2012 the NSFGA engaged the George Morris Centre to investigate whether
or not the industry could grow profitably. The simple answer was yes. New
market opportunities, both domestic and export, are available. In order to
supply those markets, production levels of high-value varieties need to
increase, and use of new orchard technologies and quality of product need to
be maximized while the cost of production is minimized. All of this action
requires the support of science and innovation.
Growers take the high financial risk of adaptation and growth. Renovating
and/or establishing new Nova Scotia orchards costs $22,500 per acre, which
does not include the capital cost of raising orchard efficiency through the
use of state-of-the-art automation technology. Growers are the ones who
undertake economic and financial assessments of technology investment
strategies for planned growth.
Understanding that successful adaptation and growth need the support of a
long-term science and innovation program, the NSFGA and collaborators
developed a 10-year research model for the Atlantic Canada tree fruit
industry. The significance of the ACTFI research model is that both science
and innovation are required to support the long-term ecological and economic
success of the industry.
There are many definitions for innovation. Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada may have a definition, but it has not been clearly communicated to
industry; therefore, the NSFGA has chosen to use the following language to
describe its understanding of innovation: Science creates new knowledge and
ideas. Value is added when innovative action converts the new knowledge or
idea into something with commercial value. An innovation is a novel creation
that produces value regardless of size. Innovation is driven by risk and
The viability of the industry is dependent on its access to science and
on its ability to innovate and/or use the results of someone else's
innovation. This is truer today than it has ever been, considering market
expectations, global competitive pressures and the extent and pace of
structural change. To be successful, innovation needs to be included in
three levels of business activity: one, core — optimizing or enhancing
existing products for existing markets; two, adjacent — expanding existing
products for adjacent markets; and three, transformational — developing
products for markets that are immature or do not yet exist.
Over the past 100 years, private-public partnering created a sound
science and innovation program for Nova Scotia tree fruits. The knowledge
base, ongoing intellectual capacity and supporting infrastructure that has
been established is of great importance. The industry cannot maintain itself
or grow without it.
In the early 2000s, AAFC began to destabilize its science program. This
process put undue amounts of stress on the Nova Scotia apple sector as it
was beginning its renewal process. This was a time when the need for a
stable science and innovation program was critical.
Despite AAFC's policy efforts to vastly reduce production science in
favour of an unclear innovation process, collaborative private-public
science partnering continued in the Nova Scotia tree fruit industry. The
Kentville research station tree fruit science team has maintained its
integrity despite AAFC policy, which was directed to significantly reduce
the number of scientists in the system and turn those remaining into
proposal writers and fundraisers.
In 2013, after more AAFC reorganization, it appears that Agriculture
Canada may be renewing its interest in local tree fruit science. This is
good. Unfortunately, AAFC policy has now made it too expensive for the
industry to activate the science. The cost to participate in the Growing
Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program, Agri-Science Clusters and Agri- Science
project funding streams is 25 per cent for not-for-profit incorporated
Further, very successful funding programs, such as the Canadian
Agricultural Adaptation Program that was locally administered and did not
cost as much for industry participation as the AIP, are being discontinued.
This means that the industry is being forced to a single, unaffordable AAFC
funding program. This would appear to be change for the sake of change.
Statistics Canada tells us that return on investment in agriculture is
minimal or non-existent. In general, Canada is recognized as being an
ineffective innovator, putting less public funding into science than other
less wealthy countries. Knowing this, in 2013 the federal government
increases the cost of science and innovation to agriculture. As far as we
are concerned, there is a logic gap in that decision.
Agricultural science and innovation benefits the health and welfare of
every Canadian citizen, not just the agricultural community. Under Growing
Forward 2, science and innovation should have been made less expensive and
more accessible to growers, not less accessible due to increased industry
cost. Even with the benefit of SR&ED tax credits, the Nova Scotia apple
industry cannot afford to make a 25 per cent contribution to leverage
Agriculture Canada program funds. Under Growing Forward 2, the Nova Scotia
apple industry will have great difficulty leveraging the AAFC funding
required to action the science and innovation that is essential to support
core, adjacent and transformational apple products.
Initially, lack of supporting science and innovation will slow the growth
of the industry; it will become unprofitable and the industry will regress.
Stakeholders will go out of business, the economy of Nova Scotia will be
negatively affected, as will the Canadian economy, and Canadian food
security will be further challenged. The cost of science that is undertaken
for the public good should not have to be carried so heavily by the food
Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Now I will call on Mr. Gilroy, the
chair of the Ontario Apple Growers, to make his presentation.
Brian Gilroy, Chair, Ontario Apple Growers: Thank you for the
opportunity to speak to you this evening.
I am an apple grower from the Georgian Bay area and the chair of the
Ontario Apple Growers. Our organization represents 215 commercial apple
farmers. Apples are the most significant fruit produced in Canada in terms
of tonnage. Nationally, apples are the second most valuable fruit crop after
blueberries, depending on the price of blueberries, with a farm gate value
of apples at $160 million annually. In 2011, this represented 21 per cent of
total fruit farm cash receipts in Canada.
In Ontario, we produce 42 per cent of our national apple crop, with a
farm gate value of approximately $70 million. This includes sales to fresh
and processing markets, as well as on-farm and pick-your-own. We grow about
17 different varieties of apples in Ontario, and our major apple producing
areas are along the shores of Lakes Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and
Georgian Bay. The top five varieties grown in Ontario based on acreage
planted are McIntosh, Empire, Northern Spy, Red Delicious and Gala.
Apples are one of the most challenging crops to grow. There are many
different varieties that all have their own unique characteristics for
effective growing and storing. The pest and disease complex affecting apple
production is one of if not the most complicated of all crops. The Canadian
market, however, is a small one on the global scene. Our apple production
represents less than 0.6 per cent of the world's annual apple production.
Today, I am here to talk to you about research and innovation in Canada's
apple industry in the context of developing new markets, enhancing
agricultural sustainability and improving food diversity and security. I
will touch on where we are seeing successes, identify areas that need
improvement and make recommendations on steps needed to grow and sustain the
industry and how government can assist in this regard. The briefing document
provided will give you additional information on each of these areas as
Recent on-farm research and innovations supported by the Ontario Apple
Growers include examining the economic benefits of using orchard platforms
for pruning, training and harvesting, as well as investments in weather
mitigation tools like frost fans, wind machines, hail netting and our very
own hail cannon, and optimizing sprayers through improved equipment
We are also seeing increased management at the farm level as a result of
more stringent food safety and traceability requirements from produce
buyers. The Ontario Apple Growers have led the way with appletracker.com — a
web- based crop management tool that helps farmers with record-keeping to
meet food safety requirements.
The OAG participates in consumer taste panels to understand what consumer
preferences are in all aspects of apples, including taste, appearance,
texture and colour. This work is being done with different demographic and
ethnographic population groups. This helps us in our search both within
Canada and globally for new apple varieties that will grow in our climate
and satisfy those preferences. Our breeding activities include planting
these potential new varieties on test plots so that we can evaluate them and
do further research in hopes of discovering the next great Ontario apple
variety. Not only will newer varieties help us build our position in the
domestic market, but also they will bring higher financial returns to
We have made progress with respect to new variety development, new
technologies and product quality. Unfortunately, this has been greatly
hampered by rapidly escalating costs and an inability for farmers to recover
those costs from the marketplace. This leaves very little money available
for us to reinvest in their operations. The global economy means that prices
for our products are often dictated by the lowest available price from other
jurisdictions. Many do not face the high labour and increasing input costs
for things like fertilizer, energy and crop protection that we have here in
Canada. The price differential of crop protection materials between Canada
and the U.S. has been observed for years and remains at about 56 per cent
higher in Canada.
Economies of scale impact all business factors. Many of our apple farmers
and packers are relatively small operations. This makes it difficult to
coordinate and implement new technology. Consolidation has happened amongst
many of our competitors, resulting in operations that are able to be
innovative and to adapt quickly to new market realities.
The Canadian apple industry needs a united voice. The Apple Working Group
of the Canadian Horticulture Council meets two to three times a year but has
lacked a true national focus. The Ontario apple sector would welcome a
national research and promotion agency to represent the interests of all
apple farmers at a national level. The resources to move such an initiative
forward have been beyond our financial ability up to this point.
The growth of a strong local food movement in recent years has been a
great boost for Ontario apple growers. We are also fortunate to be able to
benefit from the popular Foodland Ontario buy local campaign, which is
heavily supported by the Ontario government. It is recognized amongst
consumers and is the envy of many jurisdictions. As well, retail stores are
familiar with the program and allow point of sale materials to be placed
next to in-store displays of Ontario-grown products. However, despite this,
we must still compete with international competitors on size, quality and
price to make it onto the Ontario retail store shelves. In normal years,
Ontario apples are in retail stores for at least 8 if not 12 months of the
As an industry, we would like to make the following recommendations: The
first is government investment for on- farm infrastructure. We feel there is
incredible potential for Ontario's apple industry, and our apple-growing
capacity is only a fraction of what it could be. If we are able to find and
develop the best varieties for our marketplace and increase production, we
can store and market apples for 12 months of the year. As 2012 has shown us,
Mother Nature can deal devastating blows. There are many strategies farmers
could implement to help mitigate weather risks, but often there are no funds
available in a farm business for this type of investment.
An infrastructure program supported by government would help advance the
implementation of on-farm innovations. This could include innovation or new
technologies to help reduce the cost of production, ensure environmental
sustainability and increase competitiveness. Changes in government policies
with regard to finances or taxation would also help bolster innovation.
Second, continue government investment in research. In addition to
innovation, this includes support for core research, such as pest management
and resistance. We need publicly funded research capacity to deal with
societal concerns about food safety, environmental sustainability, managing
climate change, renewable energy, plant biomaterials, rural development and
other issues. Long-term and short-term research programming should be in
place that addresses both the immediate needs and longer-term issues, such
as breeding or genomics, which can take years to bring to fruition. Earlier,
we heard the discussion around how long it takes to get a certain
agricultural livestock thing going. When it comes to tree fruit, 25 years is
kind of a minimum.
Governments of all levels have been downloading the cost of programs with
societal benefit on to farmers, such as food safety, minimum wage, water and
environmental regulations. Globalization has made us price takers, unable to
return the higher costs from the marketplace. As farmers, we cannot supply
inexpensive food while at the same time absorbing all the additional
expenses on behalf of society as a whole without undermining the future
sustainability of our sector.
Governments can help support our sustainability as an industry — in
Ontario alone, horticulture provides 30,000 on- farm jobs and a further
8,700 jobs in specialty processing — by being respectful of additional costs
being downloaded to farmers and by providing offset programming to
Thank you for your time. I would entertain any questions from committee
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gilroy.
Senator Mercer: Ms. Erith, congratulations on 150 years of your
organization. It is a remarkable feat in this day and age. As a Nova
Scotian, I know there is nothing more beautiful than apple blossom time in
Annapolis Valley. It is a wonderful place to be at that time of year. I
encourage all colleagues to visit.
I have some of very short questions. We have apples, pears, peaches,
plums and cherries. What about blueberries and grapes, which are two other
fruit products in Nova Scotia?
Ms. Erith: That is correct, Senator Mercer, but the Nova Scotia
Fruit Growers' Association really only deals in tree fruits. It is an old
name and I think they thought they would do everything in the beginning, but
they can do only tree fruits.
Senator Mercer: One hundred and fifty years ago we were not
growing many grapes and were only getting the wild blueberries at the side
of the road. Today, they are big crops. I understand you are at the research
station tonight in Kentville. This is a great asset to us in Nova Scotia. I
know my colleagues were impressed when we were there.
I want to talk about new product development. Our second witness talked
about new varieties possibly being introduced in Ontario. Tell me about new
product development — some of the things we have been able to do in Nova
Scotia with respect to new products, apples in particular.
Ms. Erith: This apple is a phenomenon that occurs probably once in
a lifetime and has markets around the world. Given the relationship between
the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association and researchers at the Kentville
station, we have been able to put together a world-class program.
Researchers from other countries — Italy, France, et cetera — have come
to visit to ask how the station has been so successful with being able to
help the growers with their production methods, their harvesting techniques
and timing and their harvest methods. We have now been recognized as the
best Honey Crisp grower in the world.
Senator Mercer: Honey Crisp is a relatively new variety in Nova
Scotia. What is the time difference from the time we started to the time we
became successful? I had a Honey Crisp apple last night, so I am trying to
do my part. How long did it take from the beginning to the very successful
Ms. Erith: It was brought out in Minnesota in the 1960s, and then
it took a long time before it was planted with any significance. In 1996, it
was planted in Nova Scotia on a trial basis, and then it was planted
seriously between 2005 and 2011 in this province. Now it covers about 9 per
cent of our local production. That is a long time.
Senator Mercer: It is a long time but not necessarily a long time
when you consider the development of other products. Thank you very much.
Senator Plett: Mr. Gilroy, you stated in your presentation that
apples are one of the most challenging crops to grow. Why is that? I would
think that you plant a tree and let the apples grow.
Mr. Gilroy: Each apple variety has its own unique characteristics.
Honey Crisp, for example, is very prone to bitter pit and is very
weather-dependent. It grows best in a cool climate, and Nova Scotia's
climate is extremely good at growing one of the best crops. Georgian Bay and
the north shore of Lake Ontario also grow very good Honey Crisp, but in
places it requires additional calcium to be sprayed on that tree. People
apply Epsom salts. Northern Spy has the same challenge and requires calcium
sprays to be put on or else it develops an internal breakdown called bitter
The pest complex is evolving. New pests come, and new pests go.
As we have tried to use softer crop protection materials, old insects
that we have not seen in 60 years are re- emerging, so, as we go to lesser
and better use of crop protection materials, new things evolve. We also have
new invasive species for apples. The brown marmorated stink bug has been
imported from China through the U.S. to Canada. It is now in the Niagara
region, and it has decimated crops in the Northeastern United States. It is
an ongoing process. As the crop protection materials are being reviewed, we
are being encouraged to use different materials. There are pros and cons to
those changes. One of the real cons is cost. The new generation of materials
usually costs more. The main thing that we try to control is apple scab;
probably close to 50 per cent of our crop protection sprays are to control
that disease. All of the new materials that have come out are single-site
modes of action, and the old materials are multi-site. Within a very few
number of years, resistance to the new materials is being found, so there
are failures, which cost the farmer a lot of money.
Senator Plett: I appreciate that. You have given me a reason why
any crop is difficult to grow, actually. Grain farmers have aphids,
grasshoppers and this and that type of issue. They have to put fertilizers
on to grow. All the things that you are telling me are basically the same,
so it is really no more challenging than being any other type of farmer.
Mr. Gilroy: We will have to agree to disagree on that one.
Senator Plett: Fair enough. That is not the first time that has
happened with a witness and me.
Who produces the most apples? Is Ontario the largest producer of apples
Mr. Gilroy: In Canada, yes.
Senator Plett: Who would be next? Nova Scotia we have heard from.
Mr. Gilroy: Quebec has just passed British Columbia for second
Senator Plett: British Columbia was going to be my question. Is
the climate better to grow apples in Ontario than in British Columbia?
Mr. Gilroy: It is different. Different varieties grow better in
different climates. A lot of varieties require more heat. Red Delicious, for
example, requires a lot of heat to finish. Ambrosia is an up-and-coming
Canadian variety that grows extremely well in most climates. The problem
with that variety is getting enough volume to cover the cost of the extra
things that have to go into growing it.
One thing I should bring up, which refers back to your last question, is
that when an apple tree goes into bloom and looks beautiful and it is a full
bloom, we need only 6 to 8 percent of those flowers to become apples to have
a full crop. The key is to balance that out. Apples have a tendency to be
biennial — a heavy crop one year and hardly anything the next. Our goal is
to level that out so that it is a consistent crop. That is not easy. Often,
it will require hand thinning, going in and taking off the apples that are
Senator Plett: That is why, in my parents' backyard, one year we
would have tons of crab apples and the next year none.
Mr. Gilroy: It is natural.
Senator Plett: You spoke about a national voice. I would like to
ask both witnesses: Why do all of the organizations — yours, the
organization in Nova Scotia and all others — not get together and create a
Mr. Gilroy: We are in discussions about that right now. There is a
move to have a promotion and research check-off for all apples — imports and
It has been a focus of this government to try to have more commodities
able to do some industry fundraising for research and promotion activities.
We are certainly supportive of it.
Senator Plett: Ms. Erith, would the organization in Nova Scotia be
supportive of that as well?
Ms. Erith: If we were going to do that, we would have to have the
legislative right to collect the levy. We do not have that for apples in
Nova Scotia. We would have to go through the process of getting the
legislative right to collect the levy. That would be our first step.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
You spoke of government downloading, and I guess this might be the second
item that we will agree to disagree on. I am of the mindset that industry
needs to first do their part. I am sure that you are, and I do not want, in
any way, to belittle that. However, how much does your industry spend on
research, and how much do you spend versus what government supports you
Mr. Gilroy: I brought a copy of our annual report, which has a
full breakdown of funds that are spent on research.
We are extremely good at seed money and being able to access other funds
from other parts of the industry — crop protection material companies,
storage companies and those types of things. For 2012, when it came to
research, we were able to secure $539,157 of government money, and our
grower amount was just a little under $40,000, so we have done extremely
well at that.
We also administer a lot of these projects, and in-kind costs do not
count towards this. This is strictly cash funding.
One of the things that happened with Growing Forward was that we went to
a cluster system of agricultural research, and it was a very tough first
round. It was new for everyone, and things got changed. I do not know if you
have ever seen Hamburger Hill with Clint Eastwood? Well, he had a
word to describe the cluster, and it was all of that and more.
A lot of our researchers spend a lot of time fundraising to do the
research. They have to go around and get dollars and then do excessive
report writing. Some of our researchers are not good fundraisers but they
are good researchers. It is really important to look at who does what and
who can do it the best.
Senator Plett: Thank you. I am sure the clerk will pass around
Mr. Gilroy: He cannot touch them, apparently. They are not
Senator Plett: Just make sure you leave them right there when you
are done. Thank you.
Senator Eaton: Mr. Gilroy, I can attest to how beautiful the
Georgian Bay is. I spend the summer there every year. I would disagree with
Senator Plett. I am considered a sophisticated gardener who can raise most
things from seeds. Apples are by far the most difficult thing. They make
pears and plums a child's game.
Does the Ontario Apple Growers have an affiliation with research being
done at Guelph? Do Ontario agricultural colleges such as Guelph support you
in any way?
Mr. Gilroy: Yes. There is the Simcoe Research Station, and Dr.
John Cline conducts a lot of apple research out of the Simcoe Research
Station. We are also connected with the Vineland Research and Innovation
Centre in Vineland, Ontario.
We are challenged to fund varietal development because it is such a
long-term process. In the University of Minnesota, they have had some big
hits with Honey Crisp. Cornell University developed the Empire and Cortland
apples. In 125 years, they had basically three hits that were big
They are also doing some work on fire blight resistant root stalks. That
is a disease that can totally wipe out an orchard in a matter of weeks.
We are fully connected with the research available, and we are also part
of a research project on genomics out at Kemptville.
Senator Eaton: When you talk about new varietals, are there any
apples that are a product of a genetically modified background? If we sign
this EU trade deal, do you see that as a market opportunity for Ontario
Mr. Gilroy: Our second largest export market used to be Great
Britain. Great Britain has done a lot of work to revitalize their apple
industry, and we have pretty well lost our U.K. connection. I do not know
whether it is the same in Nova Scotia or not.
We just finished a benchmarking study on the Canadian apple industry. I
am sorry. I could have or should have brought that information with me. One
of the key factors is that we need to focus on our domestic market. There is
lots of opportunity for growth there. Apples are a symbol of health and
wellness, and we all know what the gorilla in the room is when you talk
about our economy, and it is health care. We are willing to work with any
and all government agencies to help improve the health of Canadians, and I
have a personal interest in the health of the Far North.
Senator Eaton: Right now, you feel that you have a lot of
opportunity in the domestic market.
Mr. Gilroy: Yes.
Senator Eaton: Do you see an opportunity in cider?
Mr. Gilroy: It is growing. The British Columbia grower cider is
the number one cider sold in Canada. Just two weeks ago, I met with the new
chair of the Ontario craft cider organization. It is seen as a real growth
opportunity. In Germany, they are not only great lovers of beer but also of
cider. There are over 600 cideries in Germany.
Senator Eaton: That could be an export opportunity.
Mr. Gilroy: Yes, value added of some kind.
Senator Callbeck: Ms. Erith, you talked about the George Morris
Centre. Would you explain that centre, please? Where is it located?
Ms. Erith: It is located in Ontario.
Senator Callbeck: What is it its main purpose? It did a study, but
is it mainly looking at fruits?
Ms. Erith: It is an agricultural consultancy centre. Its main
objective or purpose is to look at agriculture. It has done a number of
studies on Canadian agriculture.
Senator Callbeck: You said that you had a study done that came
back saying that the industry could be profitable. Did they look at the
Ms. Erith: The industry could grow profitably. It is easy enough
to grow a business, but you have to be able to grow it profitably.
Senator Callbeck: That was what I was getting at. Did they assume
that the farmers would be assuming all the risk in growing this business or
that government would be helping out here?
Ms. Erith: They assumed that the growers would assume the risk. It
was grower risk that was being discussed. There was no discussion about what
the government would or would not put into it. The government did not enter
into the discussion.
Senator Callbeck: You mentioned in the next paragraph the Atlantic
Canada tree fruit industry. Is there an Atlantic Canada association?
Ms. Erith: No. There is an association in New Brunswick. There is
one on Prince Edward Island and one in Nova Scotia. To be honest, I do not
think any apples are grown in Newfoundland.
Senator Callbeck: This model, the 10-year plan for the Atlantic
Canada tree fruit industry, was that with the idea of these associations
Ms. Erith: Yes, that is the idea. We do a lot of work with New
Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We include Prince Edward Island and New
Brunswick in a lot of the research work that we do. We feel that they are
not very big, either of those two provinces, when it comes to support, and
they need as much support as they can get. We are as close as they will get
to anybody else, so we should be helping them and working together.
Senator Callbeck: When did this 10-year research model start? In
Ms. Erith: We developed it in 2012, but we had been doing research
Senator Callbeck: It is relatively new then.
I noticed that ACOA announced $47,000 of assistance to develop the Nova
Scotia Fruit Growers' Association project to identify opportunities and
actions that can advance innovation and technology. How is that coming
Ms. Erith: That is coming along very well. ACOA helped to pay for
that George Morris Centre project, and ACOA money helped pay for some work
being done with the growers on improving their knowledge about orchard
automation systems and new management software that they could use in their
orchards to manage their orchards. We are now using software such as orchard
tracker, which Mr. Gilroy talked about bringing into the industry, to get
the growers to become familiar with it and use it.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Gilroy, you mentioned about the association
spending roughly half a million dollars on research and $40,000 came from
the growers. In the province, what would be your estimate on how much money
you spent on research here? Obviously there would be some going on at the
universities or colleges, or maybe there is not.
Mr. Gilroy: Earlier there was talk about the importance of
post-harvest and maintaining the quality of food for a long period of time.
That has been one of our ongoing focuses because apples are the most
delicate of little things — more delicate than an egg by far — and the cold
chain has to be preserved and whatnot.
The person who does that world-class research is an employee of the
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. What has happened
over time is that the number of people involved in agricultural research
continues to be eroded. We heard about a scientist who is retiring in
Napanee, I think, and that position was not going to be filled.
Out in the Okanagan Valley, Summerland is the varietal development apple
headquarters for Canada, and they are losing scientists left, right and
centre. I believe there are three scheduled to retire and not to be replaced
over the next two years. It is the loss of those positions that is of great
concern to us.
Senator Callbeck: Who is the real competition?
Mr. Gilroy: Washington State. It is the bully and it is huge. They
have single farms bigger than all of the Ontario apple production.
Senator Callbeck: I believe you said Canada has 0.6 per cent of
the world's apple production. What would Washington's be?
Mr. Gilroy: The U.S. is second biggest after China. China is by
far the biggest. They produce close to 50 per cent of the world's
production. The U.S. is next, and I believe Italy is third.
I will provide the apple benchmarking study with a lot of those
statistics. I have it in a format that I can email.
The Chair: Mr. Gilroy, does China have the same varieties as North
Mr. Gilroy: Their main variety is Fuji, which is quite a sweet
apple. They really like sweet fruit. Canadians actually taught the Chinese
how to grow apples commercially back in the 1960s, I believe it was. A trade
mission went over and did a really good job of showing them how to do it. It
is coming back to haunt us quite a bit. A lot of their production went to
make apple juice concentrate, and they basically took over the world
production of that commodity. Poland is second on that one. Their production
is mostly Fuji, and that is the one that is imported into Canada as well.
Senator Buth: I have a couple of questions for you, Mr. Gilroy. I
was actually going to ask who your main competitor was. You mentioned China
and you also said it is primarily Washington State, and you also mentioned
that there is an increased attention to food safety, environmental
protection, traceability, et cetera.
Do the imports have to follow the same guidelines in terms of those types
of programs that you would have to do?
Mr. Gilroy: Yes. Not all of them. In South America, and I forget
how many years ago, there was a raspberry issue coming out of Honduras, I
believe. A lot of the South American countries are actually keeping pace, if
not surpassing us, in food safety requirements because they are totally
When it comes to what is required here, as of 2012 it was required for
all of the Weston group grocery chains to have CanadaGAP certification,
which is a food safety program that was developed by growers for growers,
and relatively speaking it is working out pretty well.
Crop protection material use is unknown. We have had some really
welcoming minimum residue level requirements in the past, but apparently
that will change so that if we do not have access to it here it should not
come in on anything else.
Senator Buth: That is a shift in the program then.
The other question I had for you was on the crop protection side of
things, where you make the comment that the price differential remains at
about 56 per cent higher in Canada compared to the U.S.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has had an Own Use Import Program.
Have the apple growers used that program, and has it made any difference?
Mr. Gilroy: Two years ago, a miticide we used called Agri-Mek was
600 per cent higher in Canada than across the border. We had some farmers
apply to the grower own use program, get to the border, go across the border
and they had all the paperwork done. The company selling it got a letter
from the supplier saying that you cannot sell it to them because they do not
have their New York State pesticide handling certificate. Roadblocks were
continually put out. However, it did bring the cost of that material down to
just a little over double instead of 600 per cent higher.
It has made a difference. It was a voluntary thing for the company to
allow it, and it is now going to become mandatory that if there is a
significant price differential it will be on the list.
Senator Buth: That is a significant improvement in the program
Mr. Gilroy: Things are evolving, yes.
Senator Robichaud: You mentioned that Washington State was the
biggest producer in the United States. How do they compare as to subsidies
and research, and for all the different things that you have to do in your
industry? Are they being supported?
Mr. Gilroy: Yes.
Senator Robichaud: Would it be to a great extent?
Mr. Gilroy: It is really difficult to get hard numbers, but from
what I understand, Washington State University is one of the primary
research facilities in North America. Washington State production is so big
that they produce as many apples as almost the rest of North America put
together. That does not include Mexico. They are huge. In the 2012 crop year
they had by far their largest crop in history and it is growing. It is a bit
scary. They have access to an export market fund that subsidized their
apples at $2 a bushel to the export market, and those are significant
dollars. They have an office in Toronto. It is a very attractive market.
It is a challenge to deal with people that big. One of the big dilemmas
with apple growing is that the farmers depend on the price they get for
their crop. The packing plants depend on volume. As volume increases chances
are price is going to drop, so they are working opposite to one another. It
is one of the great challenges we have in the Canadian apple industry. Does
Senator Robichaud: Yes, it helps. You say for every bushel they
export to Canada they get $2? Is it a Washington State program?
Mr. Gilroy: I think it is a federal program. I am pretty sure it
is a federal program. They use that to buy shelf space. They use it for
volume discounts, for promotion incentives, and often that money would go to
retail head office as opposed to reducing the cost of food to the consumer.
Senator Robichaud: They are in direct competition with our
products, are they not?
Mr. Gilroy: Yes.
The Chair: Mr. Gilroy and Ms. Erith, thank you very much for
sharing your opinions with us. If you feel, as we go forward, that you want
to add anything, please do not hesitate to send us your comments through the
Honourable senators, in saying thank you to the witnesses, I will now
declare that the meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)