Canada's Outdoor Farm Show: Stakeholders Step Up to Keep Plant Breeding Alive, Is it Enough?


Grain Farmers of Ontario

By Shaun Haney

This week the Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ag Canada, farmers and industry have made a major commitment to plant breeding in Eastern Canada. There was a lot of excitement in the Grain Farmers of Ontario booth at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show this week.  It didn’t take long to quickly figure out what was the big news for the week in the GFO office.

Plant breeding has become a private company industry due to Ag-Canada’s cost cutting philosophy.  This announcement is targeted at trying to swing the pendulum back to a more even playing field.  But I do have questions.

From the  GFO Press Release:

€œWe€™re very excited about the possibilities that this new funding presents for breeding,€ says Crosby Devitt, Manager of Market Development and Research at GFO and chair of the new alliance. €œThe projects will focus on advancing production efficiencies and insect and disease resistance as well as targeting new markets in the food, industrial and feed markets, both domestically and internationally,€ continues Devitt.

At Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show I sat down with Alison Walder Coleman, GFO to discuss the project and why the GFO is involved.

If you cannot see the below embedded video, click here

With Agriculture Canada reducing its budget in plant breeding over the past decade, this type of partnership will most realistically be the norm in the future.  Provincial and Federal Government are no longer interested in just writing blank checks to agriculture.

I think the question needs to be, can 4-5 million dollars really make any difference in plant breeding across multiple crops?  Does this improve the genetics offered to farmers or is this just keeping federal breeding stations open?  People have told me that it costs one million dollars to bring a variety to market.  When you spread this funding over so many projects do you really have anything?  Even in the video above Alison is cautious on the affect that this will have.

My optimistic view is that this is a start to try and keep the government interested in breeding.  Congratulations to the industry for this achievement but time will tell what impact will be made by this announcement.  When you spread a relatively small amount of money over a wide array of crops you are prone to get limited results.  With the involvement of Pepsi Co and the industry, this program has the opportunity for expansion and development but I think the dollars are going to have to grow to make the impact farmers and the industry desire.

Overall I think that this kind of stakeholder led program really showcases the ability of the value chain to work together and hopefully focus on providing better value at the farm gate.

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