Manager of Research and Commercial Development, BASF Canada
Regulatory Affairs Manager, BASF Canada
Modern seed technology and disease and pest control tools allow Canadian farmers to produce more high-quality food sustainably with fewer inputs.
Canadians have questions about food and modern agriculture. Those are the findings of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, 2022 Public Trust Research. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents indicated that food costs were top of mind, while 50 per cent said they were worried about the global food crisis, and 44 per cent were worried about food safety. Other concerns included the threat of climate change to food security. In a 2019 survey by the same organization, respondents had questions on the use of modern agricultural tools used in crop production, such as pesticides.
Many Canadians may not be aware that plant science innovations and crop protection products developed over the past 40 years have helped Canadian farmers ensure an abundant, low-cost food supply. Using these tools farmers manage disease, insects, and weeds, while also helping to address climate change and sustainability challenges. Plant breeding alone has driven a 50 per cent increase in crop productivity over the last century — an important factor not only in ensuring domestic food supply but also in Canada’s economy as a major exporter of crops like canola, wheat, and lentils. Without the use of crop protection products, Canada’s agri-food exports would be $8.5 billion (33 per cent) lower.
Additionally, with the world’s population having recently reached eight billion people and projections indicating a world population of 9.1 billion by 2050, food production will need to rise by 70 per cent between 2005/07 and 2050.
Products designed to support high crop yield and sustainability
BASF Canada Agricultural Solutions is a chemical company specializing in providing farmers with innovative products from seed to crop protection to precision agriculture tools. Before any new crop development product or seed technology is made available to farmers, it undergoes 11 years or more of rigorous research and development. “We have eight research sites across the country in all of the major production areas, and a team of scientists working across those farms to do this research in the field, close to our customers and the communities in which they farm,” says Wayne Barton, Manager of Research and Commercial Development at BASF Canada.
We have eight research farms across the country in all of the major production areas, and a team of scientists working across those farms to do this research in the field, close to our customers and the communities in which they farm.
BASF’s agricultural tools include chemical or biological products for weed, disease, insect control, and seed technology. Within its chemical and biological portfolio, BASF has developed effective products against pests that also support conservation tillage and no-till farming practices. These practices help not only in improving soil health but also in reducing energy use, saving about 1.2 billion litres of fuel between 1996 and 2018. “Soil erosion through wind and water is reduced with practices such as conservation tillage and no-till. Avoiding multiple trips over the field with tillage equipment, helps to further reduce the carbon footprint,” says Barton.
Similarly, the company’s seed innovation portfolio aims to address sustainability challenges and includes the development of hybrid seeds to better withstand environmental factors like drought, as well as tools such as InVigor® hybrid canola Pod Shatter Reduction technology that allows for straight cutting, improving yields with reduced equipment emissions.
Intense regulatory evaluation prior to any product launch
Prior to product launch, BASF submits all the work done locally and globally by the research team to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) at Health Canada to ensure it meets both local and regulatory standards. “The PMRA represents one of the most rigorous scientific evaluation processes in the world, with more than 300 scientists in areas like chemistry, biology, toxicology, and environmental fate and ecotoxicology that assess and validate our product claims,” says Patty Vandierendonck, Regulatory Affairs Manager at BASF Canada.
Easing the way for Canadian farmers to reach international markets
These intense testing and regulatory protocols help ease the way for Canadian farmers using BASF products to ship their crops to international markets, where they must meet the regulatory requirements of the importing countries. “We want our Canadian growers to stay competitive in that trading market, so BASF works with its global colleagues around the world and regulatory bodies in those countries to ensure that the technology is acceptable there,” says Vandierendonck.
By working to improve yields and reliability of the food supply, modern tools ultimately help to support lower food costs — a key issue for many. “Lots of good things are being done by Canadian farmers, and we’re trying to make sure our research continues to support them so they can continue to be global leaders in sustainable food