Using pesticides and modern plant breeding in crop production gives Canadians access to a variety of safe, affordable and nutritious foods while allowing farmers to grow more crops on less land.
There are 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of fungi and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects that we know of around our planet. Farmers rely on plant science innovations to protect their crops against these pests.
Studies warn that climate change is going to increase farmers’ challenges due to reduced access to water, changes in growing seasons and higher pest survival rates over winter. Luckily, the plant science industry is already working on finding solutions to these problems — like developing crops that are tolerant to heat, drought and salinity. Plant science technologies also help enable farmers to adopt practices that reduce their environmental impact, such as conservation tillage.
When pests go unchecked, they can destroy whole crops and make farming extremely difficult. That drives up production costs and makes food more expensive for families to buy. Pesticides that protect crops and plant breeding innovations that make plants stronger help make farming more predictable — and food more affordable.
Plant science can help combat health problems for people all over the world. First, by using pesticides to stop dangerous pests from infecting crops with diseases that can make our foods unsafe. Second, by using modern plant breeding, including biotechnology, to produce longer-lasting foods with higher nutritional value. For example, scientists created golden rice — a food modified to contain higher amounts of beta-carotene and iron — which could prevent up to 500,000 children a year from going blind from vitamin A deficiencies. Scientists have also developed non-browning fruits and vegetables like apples and potatoes so fewer of these foods will go to waste. And these kinds of innovations in food nutrition are just getting started.
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion, yet already today nearly a billion people go undernourished. Canada can help. As a major exporter of agricultural products that exports nearly 80 per cent its grain and oilseed crops, for example, Canada can use plant science to further increase yields and meet the world’s growing food needs.
Whether growing foods organically or by other methods, all growers must battle pests to grow crops sustainably, protect their crops from damage and ensure they get the best-quality and highest yields possible. Both organic and conventional farmers use pesticides to do so. Whether they choose organic or synthetic pesticides, both are thoroughly regulated by Health Canada to ensure safety for people and the environment.
Did you know that most of the papaya we consume in Canada is imported from Hawaii? But between 1993 and 2006 the papaya ringspot virus caused production of this exotic fruit to drop by 50 per cent. Faced with this crisis, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture turned to genetic engineering to save Hawaii’s papaya. Today, genetically engineered papaya accounts for over 90% of the fruits’ production.