Canadians are not only blessed with a vast amount of arable land but also with many hard-working family farmers. Our country also plays a leading role in providing the world with safe, affordable, and nutritious food as the fifth largest exporter of food. The food grown here in Canada literally feeds the world!

The demand for Canadian food is only going to increase, as the planet will need to produce the same amount of food in the next 30 years as we have in the entire history of the earth. Given the anticipation of an increased strain on food supplies driven by an ever-expanding population, some Canadians are worried about their future access to safe, nutritious food.

The Canadian agriculture industry is focused on addressing this challenge by helping farmers grow a safe, environmentally-sustainable supply of food for Canadians and the world. Thanks in part to new technologies in plant breeding, crop production products (pesticides), biotechnology and digital farming, Canadian farmers are growing higher yielding healthier crops, which provides consumers more food choices than ever before.

“Canadians have one of the safest food supplies in the world and one of the most stringent regulatory processes in place for pesticides and the biotechnology used to grow the food,” says Pierre Petelle, the President and CEO of CropLife Canada. “Health Canada is responsible for ensuring that all pesticides are safe for both people and the environment, and when it comes to plant breeding innovations, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency work together to ensure safety.”

Canada’s regulatory system among world’s best

Indeed, not only does Canada have an enviable food supply and a strong plant science industry, it also has a regulatory system that’s recognized as being among the best in the world. It’s renowned for its ability to review the impact, benefits, and safety of the new seed traits and crop protection products that will be essential in producing the increasing amounts of food necessary to feed a global population in the next 30 years.

“Having such high regulatory standards is a great benefit to Canadians, but it also requires a significant investment into research and development in order to provide new solutions that meet the continuously evolving needs of farmers,” says Al Driver, President and CEO of Bayer’s Crop Science Division in Canada. “On average, the process takes 10-15 years to bring a new product to market.”

Two ongoing areas of innovation are in creating tools that protect crops from insects, weeds, and diseases, and developing stronger, healthier, and more useful varieties of crops. Both help farmers sustainably grow healthy foods — for Canadians and other countries around the world, driving economic growth for Canada in the process.

“We’re working with farmers to provide more sustainable and cost-effective ways to produce food without compromising the safety of people, animals, and the environment,” says Driver. “Each time we bring a new innovation to market, we have to prove the value it provides to farmers and demonstrate its responsible use, and then we have to gain regulatory approval that demonstrates its safety.”

Education and open-dialogue are vital for the future of Canadian farming

Companies are also increasingly aware that it’s not just about proving value and demonstrating responsible use to farmers and regulatory bodies, it’s about demonstrating value to all Canadians. Earlier this month, Bayer launched a new transparency initiative that gives public access to safety-relevant crop protection study information. “Through our transparency initiative, we hope to connect people with our scientific community in a way that builds trust and shows our desire to be more transparent in our pursuit to improve the future of farming,” says Driver.

The site features interesting facts about our food in an effort to address misleading information about food supply systems.  The move signals a larger shift in responsibility from the agriculture industry to the hands of all Canadians, to ensure they’re not only able to access safe, nutritious food into the future, but provide it globally too.

Canola is a Canadian success story

The current regulatory process has allowed the plant science industry to deliver a number of advancements that have improved the quality, yield, and environmental adaptability of a wide variety of crops, including canola. This heart-healthy oil seed is a Canadian success story. Canola was developed for our climate and has become the largest-grown crop here.

“We need these agricultural innovations, whether it is crop protection, biotechnology, or precision agriculture, to make it possible for the canola produced on Canadian farms to compete in a global market,” says Brian Chorney, a Canadian canola farmer and member of the Canola Council of Canada’s board of directors, in noting that 90 percent of the canola grown in Canada is exported. “Having access to these innovations, approved by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, makes it possible for farmers to continue to meet the challenges we face every day.”

These advancements continue to demonstrate the key role that Canadian crop science is playing in feeding not only ourselves, but the world.