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Introduction TCME October 2010

How many times have I heard, read, said or written that line in the past decade?


October 5, 2010
By Ralph Pearce


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How many times have I heard, read, said or written that line in the past decade?

Well, I’ve lost count, to the point where it has become something of a cliché. However, as this October issue of Top Crop Manager includes our annual Traits and Stewardship Guide, I find that line to be more apropos than ever before.

To average urbanites, the disconnect between themselves and farming is extraordinary: to them, sweet corn is just grain corn that has been harvested early, and the greatest challenge, at least anecdotally, is how to convince farmers to replace corn and soybeans with organic lettuce.

Still the signs are pointing towards a day when farmers will exact a higher price for what they do. We see this in the advancements of the companies developing the seeds and in the traits they offer. For now, those traits provide pest resistance, improved weed management and the stacking of these desired properties. Yet the recent mapping of corn, wheat and oat genomes, has given us a glimpse of what is to come, from new uses for cereal straw to biopesticides to novel uses for oilseed crops.

All of which is leading to this “crossroads,” where Canadian consumers will face an eventual choice, which may not be only theirs to make. For now, we hear that Canadians place a premium on food safety and security. Supposedly, it is important that food be “grown closer to home,” as is the tag line on the newest commercials from Loblaws. Of equal importance, of course, is that food prices remain low, with high quality, abundant supply, and “guaranteed” safety placed above fair returns to the producer.

Time to get informed
Yet, if the future I’ve described takes place on even a modest level, the perception that farming relates only to feeding people will finally be shown to be just that: a piece of fiction in need of correction.

And I honestly believe that the time for such a correction is coming.

Granted, not all growers will opt out of commodity farming. After all, it is only a matter of time before they are able to exact a fairer price for crops with specific-use traits and higher-value properties. To expect them to continue farming with more regulations and higher costs, but lower returns is as selfish as it is ridiculous. The only question that remains to be answered is whether blissfully ignorant consumers will be ready to have prices and uses dictated to them.

Then again, the notion that the public can take our Canadian farmers, with their long-standing record of safety, quality, consistency and trustworthiness, for granted, is just as preposterous.

In this issue
These days, the plant breeding sector is a whirlwind of activity (another cliché, I’m afraid). Which is why we believe our Traits and Stewardship Guide is as timely as it is useful. Added to that is the collection of stories, including three different, yet related perspectives on refuge requirements and the approach of “refuge-in-a-bag” technology. The pace with which these changes have taken place is nothing short of breathtaking, but the wave in which farming has found itself hasn’t even begun to crest.

There is so much more to come, and it’s an exciting time to be involved in farming.

I hope you agree.


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