AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-32       September 15, 2011 
In This Issue
Last Day for Matching Donations for East Africa
Government of Canada Supports Canadian Farmers Through Green Research
CWB Vote Backs Single Desk for Wheat, Barely for Barley
Record Prices Reported For Ontario Farmland as Demand and Commodities Surge, Says RE/MAX
Canada Calls for Rules-Based Trade Rooted in Sound Science
Record Canola Crop Predicted for 2011
Organic Alternatives to Combat Replant Disorder
Pricing Key to Driving Consumer Interest in Functional Foods
Researchers Crack Genetic Codes for Medicinal Plant Species
GAO Can't Find Link Between Antibiotic Use in Food Animals and Human Resistance
G20 Experts to Meet on Food Security Solutions
The Need for Climate Prediction Information for Agriculture
Coming Events

Last Day for Matching Donations for East Africa

 

Friday, September 16 is the final day that the federal government will match relief donations made by Canadians for the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. According to the United Nations, over 13 million people are affected by the famine. Online donations can be made to the Humanitarian Coalition at http://humanitariancoalition.ca/index.php/site/.  

 

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Government of Canada Supports Canadian Farmers Through Green Research

 

Canadian farmers will benefit from a partnership between the Government of Canada, industry and universities across Canada to boost producer profitability through green agriculture technologies. MP Scott Armstrong (Cumberland - Colchester - Musquodoboit Valley), on behalf of Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz, announced an investment of over $850,000 to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College to study and develop on-farm tools for applying nitrogen.

 

The Nova Scotia Agricultural College will use the investment to advance and develop greenhouse gas mitigation technologies that will allow producers to understand and apply nitrogen in a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner, thereby reducing its impact on air and water quality. This will lead to better soil fertility, reduced nitrous oxide emissions, and a decrease in other environmental impacts, such as water contamination.

 

"Problem-solving research which addresses the environmental issues facing agriculture is critical to the future sustainability of the industry," said NSAC Co-President Dr. Bernie MacDonald. "It is this kind of innovative research that contributes greatly to our ability to support healthy, sustainable communities. We are very grateful to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and its Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program for their investment in our people and our programs."

 

Funding for this project is through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AAGP), a five-year, $27-million initiative that focuses on the development of on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation technologies. The AGGP will provide funding to various partners across Canada to investigate innovative mechanisms, tools and approaches to provide real solutions for the agriculture sector.

 

The AGGP represents Canada's initial contribution to the Global Research Alliance, an international network of more than 30 member-countries that will coordinate and increase agricultural research on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and make new mitigation technologies and beneficial management practices available to farmers. For more information on the Global Research Alliance, visit www.globalresearchalliance.org.

 

AAFC Press Release, September 13, 2011

 

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CWB Vote Backs Single Desk for Wheat, Barely for Barley 

 

The Canadian Wheat Board's plebiscite on the marketing of Prairie wheat and barley finds just over three out of five voting Prairie farmers prefer a single marketing desk for wheat -- but only about half of voters want the same status quo for barley.

 

The CWB's chairman and other supporters of the single desk are now calling on the federal government to respect the wishes of voting farmers, but the government has dismissed the vote itself as an "expensive survey" it plans to ignore.

 

By the numbers

 

A total of 38,261 farmers submitted mail-in ballots in the plebiscite, for a participation rate of 56 per cent, which the CWB noted is "on par with the last three federal elections and higher than many municipal and provincial elections."

 

Out of the total ballot envelopes submitted (before removal of invalid ballots), 25,671 were submitted by wheat growers, 1,033 by barley growers and 11,359 by growers of both wheat and barley.

 

According to plebiscite co-ordinator MNP, the participation rate for returned ballots was 56 per cent (55 per cent of those who grew wheat, 47 per cent of those who grew barley, and 60 per cent of those who grew both).

 

Among 36,823 eligible and unspoiled wheat growers' ballots, 22,764, or 62 per cent, agreed with the statement "I wish to maintain the ability to market all wheat, with the continuing exception of feed wheat sold domestically, through the CWB single-desk system." The remaining 14,059 voted their wishes "to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and sell all wheat through an open market system."

 

Out of the 12,297 eligible and unspoiled barley growers' ballots, 6,283, or 51 per cent, called "to maintain the ability to market all barley, both malting/food, with the continuing exception of feed barley sold domestically, through the CWB single-desk system." The other 6,014 called "to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and sell all barley through an open-market system."

 

CWB chairman Allen Oberg, a farmer at Forestburg in northeastern Alberta, said in a release that the plebiscite results show the federal government is out of touch with farmers. 

 

"For months, (Agriculture Minister Gerry) Ritz has been claiming that the recent federal election was a mandate for the government to dismantle the CWB," he said Monday following the release of the vote count. "Now we know otherwise. There is no mandate from farmers to strip away their marketing power.

 

"We will not sit back and watch this government steamroll over farmers. We are going to stand our ground and fight for farmers," Oberg said, though the CWB's release did not specifically say what the board will do.

 

The government he said, "must now acknowledge this mandate from farmers and respect this decision."

Ritz, however, reiterated in a statement Monday that "no expensive survey can trump the individual right of farmers to market their own grain."

 

The government has stated its plans to shut down the CWB's single marketing desks by August next year. Once the Prairie wheat and barley markets are deregulated, Ritz said Monday, "every farmer will have the ability to choose how to market their grain, whether it's individually or through a voluntary pooling entity.

 

"Let me repeat: every western Canadian grain farmer will have the right to choose how they market their grain just like farmers in the rest of Canada and around the world."

 

"Meaningless"

 

Response from farmer groups Monday to the plebiscite's results ran along predictable rails.

 

National Farmers Union president Terry Boehm said in a release that the plebiscite's message to Ritz is "crystal clear. It is absolutely necessary that he respect the wishes of the majority of western grain farmers, and abandon his plans to eliminate the single desk."

 

In a release from a separate Prairie group, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, Alberta farmer Ken Larsen said farmers voting in "such high numbers is a strong message in itself" given what he called an "ongoing campaign of misinformation and bullying -- including efforts by Canada¿s agriculture minister to discourage farmers from voting."

 

A pro-deregulation group, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, which had urged farmers to boycott the vote, criticized the vote for its "low turnout."

 

"We urge the federal government to ignore this meaningless survey and move full speed ahead toward giving us our grain marketing freedom," association president Kevin Bender said in a release Monday.

Farmer Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, further criticized the vote as a waste of time and resources, given the government's plans.

 

"It is unfortunate that a narrow majority on the board of the CWB continues to refuse to let their management team get to work on a new business model, while according to their own survey released today, over 20,000 farmers are looking for marketing freedom," he said.

 

"Slap in face"

 

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, in campaign mode ahead of an Oct. 4 election in the CWB's home province, also weighed in on the plebiscite's results Monday.

 

"Farmers have voted clearly to preserve the single-desk marketing system," he said in a release. "Dismantling the wheat board would be a slap in the face of Prairie farmers and a risk to jobs and our economy."

 

Selinger's release also took a jab at rival Hugh McFadyen, leader of the opposition Progressive Conservatives, who's on record in 2006 as urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hold a farmer plebiscite before making any changes to the board's mandate.

 

But McFadyen said in June this year that the future of the CWB "was decided by Manitobans and Canadians" in the previous month's federal election.

 

Country Guide, September 12, 2011

      

  
Record Prices Reported For Ontario Farmland as Demand and Commodities Surge, Says RE/MAX

 

Rising agricultural commodity values and tight inventory levels have seriously contributed to a significant upswing in the price of Ontario farmland in 2011, according to a report released today by RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada.

 

The RE/MAX Market Trends Report - Farm Edition 2011 found that shortages exist in the vast majority of centres studied, with pent-up demand fuelling unprecedented momentum virtually across the province.  Upward pressure on acreage values has been consistent as a result. Of the 12 major agricultural communities examined, 11 (92 per cent) reported tight inventory levels, while nine (75 per cent) noted an increase in price per acre.  Despite the current volatility in commodity prices, the long-term prospects for the agricultural industry continue to be bolstered by global realities, including population growth, an international grain shortage and decreased availability of quality farmland from a worldwide perspective.

 

"Farming operations are increasing in size as today's farmers seek to boost production through the accumulation of acreage," says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada.  "On a national scale, the average farm has tripled in size over the past 50 years.  Much of the current expansion is attributed to the booming cash crop business.  The shortage of quality farmland has sparked serious competition and exerted upward pressure on prices - a trend that is expected to continue.  With commodities on the upswing and greater export opportunities to supply emerging markets, Ontario farmers are now strategically positioning themselves to compete on a world stage."

 

Farmers have invested heavily in capital expenditures in recent years, spending millions on farm equipment to maximize efficiencies. As commodity prices have risen, so too have the price per acre of workable farmland.  The most expensive farmland in the province is found in the Holland Marsh/Bradford area, where prices can climb as high as $20,000 per acre.  New Liskeard boasts the greatest affordability, where the price per acre of tiled farmland can run from $1,300 to $2,500.

 

Expansion, while serving to bolster demand, has also caused a shift in the composition of Ontario farmland.  There has been a marked decline in the number of smaller farms, while larger operations continue to increase in size.  This was evident in all Ontario markets, especially as smaller acreages are harder to come by due to amalgamation and restrictions on severances.  The trend-which has been ongoing for years-is supported by the most recent Census data, which shows that the number of overall farms in Ontario shrank from 85,015 in 2001 to 82,410 in 2006.  Farmers are acquiring land by either purchasing-their first preference-or renting from adjacent farmers.  Because of the severe shortage of farmland listings, the demand for leased land has surged-a fact that has also driven rental rates to new highs within the province.  Given this, retiring farmers are increasingly opting to hold on to their land and lease it to neighbours.  The strategy-while exacerbating the supply problem-has proven profitable in recent years and less volatile than other forms of investment such as the stock market.

 

"There are a number of clear signs that the market is quite heated at present," notes Polzler.  "In addition to supply and demand, the trend toward door-knocking and private sales has increased.  Another factor is the presence of investors-a small, but growing segment of buyers.  Until recently, investment activity-common in Western Canadian farmland markets-was a rare phenomenon in Ontario.  The trend is a promising one, indicating growing confidence in the future of Ontario's agricultural real estate."

 

While investors represent a small percentage of farmland holdings, it's estimated that end users account for 95 per cent of Ontario farm ownership-a fact that bodes well for the ongoing health and stability of the market.  Not surprisingly, investors have been most active in areas where considerable urban sprawl is underway, including Barrie, Innisfil and Bradford, where progress has driven prime development land prices upwards of $20,000 to as much as $100,000 an acre in some pockets.   Pending construction-which in some cases can be years down the road-developers are renting the parcels to local farmers in a bid to preserve farm status and a lower tax rate.

 

Diversification also continues to prop-up demand as farmers seek to maximize the potential of their operations.  Far from traditional mom and pop businesses, many of today's farms are complex, multi-faceted enterprises.  Some supply-managed farmers are choosing to acquire additional land to branch out into cash cropping, while others seek to capitalize on energy and environmental trends.  A growing number of farmers are entering into contracts to host wind or solar power projects, while others opt to permit the extraction of gas and natural resources, as seen in markets like Chatham-Kent and Windsor and Essex County.  These arrangements have provided an alternate source of income and underscored the budding possibilities that exist for land owners.

 

The farmland segment comprises a small portion of real estate sales in Canada. *Yet, the land supports an industry (primary farming) that accounted for 1.7 per cent of total GDP.  Overall the agriculture and related agri-food system accounted of 8.2 per cent of total GDP or $98 billion dollars in 2009 and supported one in eight (two million) Canadian jobs.  Ontario and Quebec account for the largest share of employment (70 per cent) in agriculture and food processing.  Canada is the fourth-largest food exporter globally, with exports valued at $35.2 billion.  In 2009, Canadian grain and grain products were exported to over 110 countries worldwide.

 

To access the full RE/MAX Market Trends Report: Farm Edition 2011, click here: http://goo.gl/q5VJD

 

RE/MAX Press Release, September 12, 2011

 

*Source: An Overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System (2011), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

      

  
Canada Calls for Rules-Based Trade Rooted in Sound Science 

 

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz today concluded the 36th Cairns Group (CG) Ministerial Meeting where members assessed the ongoing WTO Doha Round negotiations on agriculture and other issues that impact trade, with the objective of fostering a more open agricultural trading system. For the first time, CG members discussed how innovation and rules-based trade rooted in sound science can help open up markets and meet global food security objectives.

 

"Hosting the Cairns Group was an opportunity for Canada to drive a strong agenda to strengthen international agricultural trade for the benefit of Canadian farmers," said Minister Ritz. "Once again, Canada is taking a leading role in agricultural trade relations by advocating for trade based on rules and sound science which will ensure a stronger economy here at home and around the world."

 

While remaining committed to the multilateral process of the WTO and seeking an ambitious and balanced outcome to the Doha Round, Canada, along with the CG, expressed deep concern about the current state of the WTO Doha negotiations and called for a realistic path forward on trade liberalisation and a more predictable trading system. The next WTO ministerial meeting planned for December will be an opportunity to assess the current situation and to develop a work plan in co-operation with other WTO members.

 

The CG also welcomed the Government of Canada's domestic decision to reform its single desk marketing system for trade in wheat, durum and barley. On the margins of the Cairns Group meetings, Minister Ritz also had the opportunity to speak with Australian Trade Minister Dr. Craig Emerson specifically about the growth potential and economic opportunities available to grain farmers when they have the right to choose how to market their grain.

 

"Following a remarkably smooth transition to an open market, our economy and farming businesses, both large and small, have benefited from an open grain market," said Australian Trade Minister Dr. Craig Emerson. "For example, in the very first year after deregulation of Australia's single desk, our grain farmers exported to more than double the number of markets."

 

Minister Ritz underlined the importance to adapt trade regulations to the growing, innovative agriculture sector. Canada strongly supports innovation in agriculture, which will help farmers continue to produce high quality and quantity of food stuffs and help achieve our global food security objectives. During the conference, Minister Ritz pledged to continue to lead discussions with the international community on the effective management of unintended low-level presence of genetically modified materials in agricultural imports.

 

Minister Ritz also met with his counterpart from Morocco, Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch, to discuss the benefits that a future Free Trade Agreement will bring to farmers from both countries. Ministers agreed that the first round of negotiations will take place the week of October 11 in Ottawa.

 

"We are moving ahead with free trade negotiations with Morocco to protect and strengthen the financial security of hardworking Canadians," said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. "A free trade agreement with Morocco would be Canada's first with an African country, and would serve as a gateway to opportunities for Canadian businesses in key areas such as agriculture, manufacturing and service industries in Mediterranean and North African markets."

 

The Cairns Group is a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries with a commitment to strengthening agricultural trade. A number of other important trading countries also attended the ministerial conference co-chaired by Minister Ritz and Australian Minister for Trade Craig Emerson from September 7-9. In addition, farm leaders from the Cairns Group member countries gathered in Saskatoon at the invitation of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance.

 

AAFC Press Release, September 9, 2011

 

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Record Canola Crop Predicted for 2011

 

The yellow canola fields of Western Canada are expected to become gold for farmers this year in the form of a record crop.

 

Statistics Canada predicts canola production will hit 13 million tonnes in 2011, an all-time high and nearly 11 per cent more than in 2010.

 

Prairie farmers will harvest 17.8 million acres of canola this year, a record area. Average yields are pegged at a strong 32.3 bushels per acre.

 

Statistics Canada made the forecast in its recent 2011 preliminary crop outlook.

 

Saskatchewan and Alberta are predicted to see record canola production of 6.5 million tonnes and 4.8 million tonnes respectively. Only in Manitoba, where excessive spring moisture left roughly three million acres of annual cropland unseeded, will production fall by 21.7 per cent to 1.7 million tonnes, Statistics Canada says.

 

Some market analysts feel the StatsCan forecast is too low and canola production will be higher when the crop is in the bin.

 

If predictions hold true, this year's canola crop could be worth between $7 billion and $8 billion in farm cash receipts, based on current futures prices. Analysts caution, though, that the actual return depends on the basis, which is the difference between the futures market price and the local cash (or street) price.

 

The forecast for a record canola crop is a bit surprising, considering a cool, wet spring produced extensive flooding, especially in the eastern Prairies. The wet weather actually worked in canola's favour because farmers turned to it as a last resort.

 

Derwyn Hammond, crop production resource manager with the Canola Council of Canada, said less traditional areas in southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta saw major increases in canola acreage.

 

Hammond said warm, dry weather in July and August reduced disease pressure from blackleg and sclerotinia, which can do considerable damage to canola crops.

 

But record volumes are not a sure thing yet. Hammond said Alberta, where some of the best yields are anticipated, needs several weeks of frost-free weather before the crop can be swathed.

 

Ron Friesen, FCC Express, September 9, 2011

 

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Organic Alternatives to Combat Replant Disorder

  

Replant disorder has plagued farmers for hundreds of years. It was studied in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys of British Columbia during the 1980s and has recently regained a high profile in fruit growing regions of BC and other orchards, worldwide.

 

To increase fruit yields, farmers are pulling out their old fruit trees and planting dwarfing rootstocks that are smaller, closer together and produce more fruit at a higher efficiency.

Planting new trees where an established orchard once was, however, can result in trees that lack vigour when compared to the former orchard block - a term referred to as 'replant disorder'. Characterized by poor growth and establishment, the detrimental impact on fruit yield can cost British Columbian farmers up to $10,000/hectare.

Traditionally treated by chemical fumigation, replant poses a particular challenge for organic farmers. Dr. Louise Nelson of the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, BC and Dr. Gerry Neilsen of the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, BC are searching for organic alternatives to combat replant disorder. They have selected a number of naturally-occurring soil bacteria that may offer a solution to this complex and devastating problem.

The cause of this highly variable disorder is unknown, can differ from orchard to orchard and cannot be attributed to one single agent or causal factor. Some explanations include the presence of pathogenic fungi, bacteria, or microscopic worms called nematodes. Others suggest soil factors such as improper pH, unavailability of phosphorous for plant growth or a lack of moisture.

Molly Thurston is a graduate student working on solutions to apple and cherry replant for Drs. Nelson and Neilsen. She is also a horticulturist with the Field Service at the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative who provides advice to over 100 growers in the Okanagan Valley. From Nelson's collection of soil bacteria, Thurston has narrowed down her search for the most promising strains from a selection of 100 to 15 candidate organisms. In the lab, she determines their ability to control potential pathogens in the soil and their capacity to act as a biofertilizer by making phosphorous more available to the plant.

Rock phosphate is one of the only natural phosphorous fertilizers available to organic farmers. In Thurston's experiments, it is hypothesized that the beneficial bacteria applied in combination with rock phosphate will make phosphorous more available to the plant. In doing so, this added phosphorous will hopefully promote healthy growth and development with newly planted seedlings.

"Regardless of whether growers are organic or conventional, there is a need to explore alternatives," says Thurston, an organic farmer herself, "and there is a strong interest in biological controls." Although the chemical, methyl bromide, was originally recommended for use against replant, it has now been declared an ozone depleting substance. In 1994 it was removed from the market in Canada and other countries because of its toxic effects.

Currently, Thurston observes how her selected bacteria affect root architecture of young apple seedlings in experimental growth pouches. She also conducts small-scale greenhouse trials and this spring, hopes to apply 4 or 5 of the best performing biological treatments to newly replanted apple seedlings in commercial, organic orchards that have shown symptoms of replant in the past.

Commenting on their results thus far, Nelson states that "we see some [bacteria] with good phosphate solubilizing activity on plates in vitro, but now need to see if they are active in the rhizosphere and if they enhance plant growth.

"We are looking at a complex problem, one which may involve P[hosphorous] availability as well as control of fungal pathogens. It may be difficult to find the optimal combination of P solubilization and fugal inhibition in a single bio fertilizer/biocontrol agent."

When asked if biological control agents are a viable option for controlling replant disease, Thurston states that it's "certainly an alternative that needs to be explored. As time goes on, there are more and more barriers to the application and registration of chemical fumigants", specifically those used on food products.

Consumers are open to the idea of using live organisms, in particular, bacteria on their food crops; they offer a safe, environmentally friendly alternative for both organic and conventional growers. There are a number of microbial products registered and available to treat other orchard problems such as fire blight or apple scab. Their application illustrates that alternatives to chemical control agents are gaining acceptance with both farmers and the Canadian horticultural sector.

   
Daylin Mantyka, OACC Press Release, September 12, 2011

 

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Pricing Key to Driving Consumer Interest in Functional Foods


The director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals says price is an extremely important factor in driving consumer interest in the use of functional food products.

 

"Food: The answer to what ails you?" will be the focus of Café Scientifique taking place this evening in Winnipeg.

 

Dr. Peter Jones, the director of the University of Manitoba's Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, who will discuss the process involved in receiving approval for health claims, acknowledges the level of public interest in these products has been a little rocky.


Clip-Dr. Peter Jones-University of Manitoba:
In some jurisdictions, functional food entities have been met with a little bit of indifference.

Often they cost a whole lot more than the basic food without the functional ingredient so the consumer isn't willing always to pay the premium price.

The price point is an extremely important aspect of this whole thing.

The consumer also gets confused sometimes by some of the messaging but certainly many of these foods are doing very well.

If you take a look in jurisdictions where the legislation is fairly permissive and the functional food industry is well developed and Japan is an example, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of functional foods in the marketplace.

Here in Canada for instance, since the plant sterol claim and its language about reducing cholesterol absorption and reducing cholesterol levels was permitted in May of 2010, there are now around half a dozen products out on the marketplace seemingly doing very well.

So it all depends but despite the rocky aspects for some of these products by and large they are doing very well.


Dr. Jones suggests we're seeing the gray zone between foods and drugs getting smaller and smaller and he suspects there may soon be no real demarcation between these two categories.

 

Bruce Cochrane, University News, University of Manitoba Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, September 13, 2011 

 

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Researchers Crack Genetic Codes for Medicinal Plant Species

  

Researchers from across Canada have identified the genetic makeup for a large number of medicinal plant species and are making the codes available to scientists and the public on-line.

 

A nation-wide group of researchers, led by the University of Calgary's Dr. Peter Facchini and Dr. Vincent Martin of Concordia University in Montréal, are unraveling the genetic blueprints of 75 plant species that have potential applications in the pharmaceutical, natural health product, food and chemical industries. Previously, the efforts of scientists were focused on a fairly small numbers of plant species.

 

"The creation of a public resource of genetic information for plants that produce a large number of important and valuable natural products is an important milestone in our project," says Facchini, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary and co-leader of the PhytoMetaSyn Project, which started two years ago and involves scientists from universities and research institutes from across the country.

 

"We are completing the analysis of the genetic codes for nearly 75 plant species and are making them accessible on-line as they become available with the hopes of having the entire set in our web portal by the end of February 2012. Currently more than half of the 75 species are available on our website."

 

The Project website is www.phytometasyn.com.

 

Plants contain specialized enzymes encoded by their unique genes that make them effective producers of medicines, flavors, fragrances, pigment, insecticides and other chemicals. Many of these compounds are still produced commercially from plants. Having access to such genetic information is a critical aspect of their research, which targets the development of technologies to re-create plant pathways in microbes such as yeast.

 

New compounds not found in nature:

 

Synthetic biology, as it is known, also has the potential to combine genes from different plants to make new compounds not found in nature. For example, Facchini's groundbreaking discovery of the genes that allows the opium poppy to make codeine and morphine has led the way to making effective painkillers in pharmaceutical factories, or creating plants that will only produce the more-valuable codeine. Other species being studied have a diverse range of medicinal applications ranging from anti-plaque agents, wart removal to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer treatments.

 

"Genomic information of that nature and scale is a treasure trove for synthetic biologists," says PhytoMetaSyn co-leader Vincent Martin, a professor in the Concordia Department of Biology. "It provides access to many genes or parts that can be used to produce molecules on an industrial scale."

 

The project also has a team looking at the ethics, economics, legal and social implications of the science.

 

"An interesting question is, who actually owns this genetic information?" asks Facchini. "We're releasing it publically because we feel it belongs to everyone. We discovered it, but we didn't invent it."

 

Dr. Tania Bubela, from University of Alberta's School of Public Heath, studies ethical issues relating to synthetic biology in the PhytoMetaSyn Project. "As with all new fields of research, maintaining the trust of the public and the regulators is key," says Bubela. "What scientists do at this early stage will determine directions in the future."

 

Partners in research:

The total budget for PhytoMetaSyn Project is $13,602,100 over four years, of which Genome Canada has contributed $6,443,100. Other project funders include Genome Alberta, Genome Québec, Genome Prairie, Genome British Columbia, the National Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Innovation and Research, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

 

University of Calgary Press Release, September 13, 2011

 

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GAO Can't Find Link Between Antibiotic Use in Food Animals and Human Resistance

 

A report issued today by the Government Accountability Office concluded there isn't sufficient data to study a link between antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans.

 

The report comes amid attempts in Congress to restrict use of antibiotics in food animals; supporting legislators point to other reports claiming there is such a link. 

 

GAO concluded USDA and Health and Human Services have collected some data on antibiotic use in food animals and on resistant bacteria in animals and retail meat, but said "these data lack crucial details necessary to examine trends and understand the relationship between use and resistance."

 

"Not only is there no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans, as the U.S. pork industry has continually pointed out, but there isn't even adequate data to conduct a study," National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf said in a news release issued in response to the report. 

 

"The GAO report on antibiotic resistance issued today confirms this..." he added. 

 

NPPC noted the pork industry has long supported the federal antibiotic-resistance program, and that pork producers administer the drugs responsibly under veterinary supervision under FDA-approved protocols to help their animals stay healthy and produce safe pork.

 

The GAO report notes HHS and USDA have worked to research alternatives to current antibiotic use practices and to educate producers and veterinarians on appropriate use of antibiotics. However, the extent of such efforts are unclear because the agencies haven't assessed their effectiveness, limiting their ability to identify gaps where more research may be needed.

 

Tom Johnston, meatingplace.com, September 14, 2011 

 
 

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G20 Experts to Meet on Food Security Solutions     

 

Agricultural experts from the G20 countries will meet next week to find ways to match the latest research and technology to the growing demand for more food. It's estimated the world's population will grow to nine billion by 2050.

 

The meeting in Montpellier, France, stems from last November's G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea. During that conference, France, Japan, Canada and Brazil were asked to focus more on food security.

 

For guidance, they called on U.N. agencies, the World Bank, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, known as CGIAR, and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, or GFAR.

 

"It's increasing the cooperation and coordination amongst the G20 and their agricultural research systems and how those are mobilized better into working directly in support of developing country needs," said Mark Holderness, executive secretary of GFAR.

 

That coordination and cooperation includes looking at long-term solutions and not just immediate crises, like the drought in the Horn of Africa.

 

"In two days we're not going to change the world," he said, "But I think what we can do is start to look at some innovative ways to work together to really recognize the new architecture that's out there and the relationships between countries, the capabilities of countries. Start to tap Brazil, China, India. They all have huge capabilities in their own right and they're just beginning to reach out and mobilize those for other countries."

 

Fresh look

 

Holderness said the goal is to turn the current food production and security system on its head - and take a fresh look at the role of research.

 

"Fundamentally, who are its clients? Its clients are the farmers. The products of research should be serving the needs, in particular, of the poor farmers. Helping to lift them from poverty, to sustain their productive environments, to enable food security needs to be met, while also ensuring rural development," he said.

 

Too often, he said, advances in research take priority over actually using those advances to help farmers. "We're trying to bring back that connectedness between society and research, to put it crudely."

 

BRIC

 

Brazil, Russia, India and China make up what are called the BRIC countries - an acronym made of the first letters of their names. Their strong, emerging economies are expected to play a major role in meeting food security needs. Holderness said China's agricultural production underpins its industrial revolution.

 

"China has put a massive increase in investment in their research and development in agriculture. And at the same time, their farming population has changed radically as young men, in particular, go to the cities to work in the factories and the industrial advance. The countryside is increasingly becoming an area where the farmers are now the women, the older people. And that in itself carries implications for ability to take up new opportunities or to make incomes from that," he said.

 

In sub-Saharan Africa, women are also the backbone of the agricultural sector.

 

BRIC countries are also expected to become major providers of fundamental agricultural research, joining the U.S., Europe and Japan. Holderness says that knowledge becomes crucial with the world population expected to reach nine billion in less than 40 years.

 

That in itself carries huge implications for increased food production in particular from developing countries. Research doesn't happen overnight. New knowledge doesn't just happen. It's an iterative process of learning, building on previous knowledge and so on. And if we don't start asking the questions now about what kind of agriculture we're going to need then to feed that population, to ensure that farmers have a viable livelihood, to ensure that environments are still able to produce that much, then frankly we're letting not just ourselves down as researchers, but we're letting the world down," he said.

 

Time to act

 

In recent years, G8 and G20 nations have called for greater investment in smallholder farmers and herders in Africa and Asia. Both groups were hit hard by recent food crises triggered in part by higher fuel and commodity prices, biofuel production and climate change.

 

The executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research says the G20 meeting must produce action and not more words about what needs to be done.

 

"Let's start putting something on the table," Holderness said, "What are we going to commit to make happen? Even if it's small-scale to start with, what can we see that we need to do and that we need to build these processes towards?"

 

Joe DeCapua, voanews.com, September 8, 2011 

 
 

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The Need for Climate Prediction Information for Agriculture 

 

The demand for world agriculture output will grow exponentially overcoming decades due to world population growth and expanding world economies.  At the same time, the agriculture sector will be impacted by changes in climate that will challenge the productivity of the world's agriculture resources.  To meet this expanding world demand, agriculture must become more adept at anticipating climate changes and variations and finding ways of adapting to these changes.  Below is a discussion of the needs of farmers and agribusinesses for quality information relating to climate predictions.

Climate prediction information has the potential to reduce the impact of adverse weather events.  This will occur because the advance notice will allow decision makers the opportunity to implement plans to minimize the impact of adverse events and find opportunities within favorable events.

Climate prediction is in its infancy. However, the payoff from the research and development of reliable climate prediction information can be substantial for the agricultural industry.  This is especially important considering the increased frequency of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing and will experience in the Midwest in coming decades. 

Below is a discussion of the ways in which climate prediction information can be utilized by crop and livestock producers and agribusinesses to adapt to and minimize the impact of changing weather patterns and adverse weather events.  

 

Read more at http://www.agprofessional.com/news/129757363.html.

 

Don Hofstrand, Iowa State University, in AgProfessional, September 14, 2011

 

 
 

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Coming Events

 

Canadian Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of America joint conference, Fundamental for Life: Soil, Crop, & Environmental Sciences, San Antonio, Texas, October 16-20, 2011

 

Feeding a Hungry World: A Summit for Animal Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario, October 17-18, 2011 

 

Catalyst Canada Honours Celebrating Champions of Women in Business, Toronto, Ontario, October 18, 2011

 

2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Acadian Entomological Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 6-9, 2011  

 

Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 21-21, 2011 

 

Canadian Organic Science Conference, February 21-23, 2012, Winnipeg, Manitoba 

 

6th Annual Growing the Margins: Rural Green Energy Conference and Exhibition and 4th Annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conference and Exhibition, London, Ontario, March 5-7, 2012
 
 

 

 

AIC LogoAIC Notes is a weekly update provided as a service for AIC members.  Please do not circulate or post.  The content of AIC Notes does not represent official positions, opinions or support of AIC or its members. 

Frances Rodenburg, Editor