Biotechnology opposition off base

Innovation is key to keeping Canada’s agricultural sector strong.

Science-based regulatory systems ensure that such innovations are safe for human health and the environment.

Innovations derived through modern plant breeding help farmers, are good for the environment and deliver tangible benefits to consumers by way of lower food costs. Agricultural innovation, including plant biotechnology, has played a strong role in that success.

Farmers are rapidly accepting new genetically modified traits because they help control threats to productivity such as weeds, insects and disease.

These genetically enhanced crops can also reduce or eliminate the need for farmers to plow the land to control weeds, which significantly enriches soil and reduces erosion.

A report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications found that Canadian farmers continue to choose to plant GM crops because of the benefits they see in terms of improved yields and quality and environmental sustainability. Close to 29 million acres of biotech crops were planted in Canada last year.


Canada isn’t alone in adopting this technology. Millions of farmers in 28 countries planted biotech crops last year. The global area of biotech crops has increased 100 fold since they were first commercialized in 1996, making it the fastest adopted technology in recent history.

Unfortunately, many long-time opponents continue to ignore the many benefits of new technologies. Instead, they continue to use the same false and fear-based messages to try to convince Canadians that these technologies are somehow bad.

Recent protests that took place across the country were nothing more than a special interest group trying to get attention to support its fundraising than about any real health concerns.

The truth is that Canada is well-known for its exceptional science-based regulatory system and for ensuring that human health, environmental consideration and livestock feed safety are all considered before a new crop is authorized in Canada.

In addition, the industry has a long history of ensuring its products are properly managed throughout their entire life cycle, which includes developing best management practices to address concerns such as the ability of various farming operations to coexist.


In the case of GM alfalfa, all that would be required to ensure that conventional and organic farms can coexist is for farmers to harvest the plant before it flowers. No pollen, no seed, no problem.

The reality is that regardless of the innovation, these same groups would have protested. They continually undermine the proven benefits of modern agriculture, and we expect they always will.

Such a shame, really, when one considers that increasing food demands mean that innovations in agriculture are more important than ever before.

Lorne Hepworth is president of CropLife Canada.


  • R Andrew Ohge

    1.…, “Short-term screens such as the “Ames test”, whether for genetic damage or increased cell proliferation, are far from 100% accurate in predicting carcinogenicity & are not a replacement for long-term bioassays.

    Furthermore, humans cannot be kept physically isolated for long periods of time and fed diets containing possibly toxic substances. Nor can heredity or environmental factors be controlled. Data from laboratory animal tests & epidemiological studies with humans must serve as guides for assessing the safety of the food supply.”

    2. Toxicology of many substances found in food:

    3. “The total number of samples taken in the context of the 2010 national programmes was 77,075. Compared with the previous year, this is an increase of 13.4%. In 2010, the majority of the samples taken were classified as surveillance samples (72,813 samples, 94.5% of the total number of samples). The total number of enforcement samples taken by all reporting countries was 4,262 (5.5% of the total number of samples). The number of pesticides in 2010 was 982. In 2010, 529 different commodities were surveyed. The majority of samples in 2010 were produced in one of the reporting countries (73%), while 23% of the samples originated from 3rd countries.Residues of 328 distinct pesticides were found in measurable quantities in vegetables, 301 in fruit & nuts, & in cereals residues of 88 different pesticides were observed.”

  • April Reeves

    Activists are “off base”?
    Maybe we just don’t want crops that have no open public long term research on them.
    Maybe we don’t want Monsanto and “friends” taking over the food supply. Maybe we don’t want to eat pesticides, especially since the FDA has now allowed even more use of it.
    Maybe organic farmers would love to stay organic farmers.
    Maybe we’re tired of Monsanto being protected from their abuse and their blatant refusal to take responsibility.
    One thing we’re not tired of though is educating people about this. And we are growing quickly in numbers which scares the crap out of the biotech industry. In the end, the consumer will decide. I know we’re making progress when biotech fight back. Ten years ago Lorne wouldn’t have had to write this.

  • Those “special interest groups” you casually try to disregard are actually looking out for the publics’ best interests, especially the farmers, and are trying to alert people to the lack of respect shown for our environment by these, first priority, profit-for-shareholders corporations
    Some of us have been around too long to buy into the belief that everything that is proclaimed to be “innovative” or “science- based” is safe and/or scientifically reseached, in an unbiased manner.
    It appears that in the rush to make more profits the attitude is ‘shoot first and ask questions later’.
    Here are some pressing the questions that need to be answered now.
    – Why are the pollinators dying off in alarming numbers?
    – Super weeds? Where did they come from?
    – Why is the soil losing its all important nutrients and microorganisms?
    – Why is there an increase,esp. in the last 10 years, of infertility, miscarriages and deadly gastrointestinal disorders in cattle (especially dairy cattle)?
    As for GM alfalfa, the last thing we need is another unknown until these other problems have been addressed.