Biotech crops gaining ground in Canada

The area seeded to biotech crops in Canada has increased in recent years, reaching roughly eight million hectares (19.8 million acres) in 2011, according to a report from the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service.

That compares with 6.9 million hectares (17 million acres) seeded to biotech crops in 2010.

Biotech crops account for 58 per cent of the corn, 46 per cent of the soybeans and 80 per cent of the canola grown in Canada, according to the report.

“Canada’s strong research system and proximity to the U.S. facilitate collaboration and advances in biotechnology,” the FAS report said.

Canada is one of a few countries, along with the U.S., Australia, Mexico and South Africa, which allows for stacked traits, or up to three traits in one crop.

Janice Tranberg, vice-president for Western Canada with CropLife Canada, a trade association for the plant science industry, estimated actual area seeded to biotech crops may already be larger than the FAS estimates.

Over 90 per cent of the canola grown in the country consisted of genetically modified varieties while soybeans were around 65 per cent and corn 60-70 per cent.

“Since plant biotechnology was first introduced in Canada (15 years ago) it has consistently been increasing, not only in Canada but also around the world, and we expect that trend to continue,” she said.

The focus in biotechnology moving forward will be on developing crops that have increased cold and drought tolerance, allowing them to be grown in new areas, Tranberg said.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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