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Plant Breeding Innovation is an important step for the sustainable future of the grain sector

Plant breeding is critical in the continued success of the grain sector in Canada. The Canadian agriculture industry relies on science to drive forward sustainability, new varieties to continue to help the value chain be profitable and provide consistent high-quality grains for our domestic and international customers. 

Plant breeding innovation allows researchers to prioritize on sustainable agriculture. The adoption of gene editing helps to accelerate solutions for crop concerns from disease resistance to reducing the need for crop inputs such as fertilizer and even improving the nutritious qualities on grains.  “While currently there is no gene edited wheat being commercially grown in Canada, there is continued and emerging research on traits such as disease resistance and improved input use efficiency,” says Krista Zuzak, crop protection and production director at Cereals Canada. 

The information shared in the webinar provides an understanding of what gene editing is, what are some of the possibilities and the importance of maintaining public trust and transparency for market access success.   

Canada’s cereals sector leads the country’s agriculture exports with annual exports averaging $8.5 billion CDN dollars to over 70 countries. The scale and scope of these exports represents valuable market diversification.  

Disease and crop inputs have a financial implication to Canadian farmer’s profits and their farm management practices. “The genetic improvement of plant disease resistance is essential for sustainable agriculture and plant breeding innovation such as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) could provide solutions for some of the challenges facing agriculture,” says Ian Affleck, vice-president of plant biotechnology with CropLife Canada.  

“For farmers to benefit from plant breeding innovation, it is essential that we maintain market access for Canadian grain,” says Krista Thomas, Vice President of Trade Policy and Seed Innovation with Canada Grains Council. “That is why we are preparing to discuss export market considerations as a value chain, long before new innovations like gene edited varieties are made available to farmers. We also need Canadian regulators to implement clear policy guidance and align with our trading partners.” 

To learn more about Plant Breeding Innovation, watch the English webinar below (Link to French version)

For more information on the examples of plant breeding innovation as seen in the webinar: 

  1. Disease resistance such as Powdery mildew 
  1. Improved nutrition like the high fibre wheat  
  1. Improve nitrogen and phosphorous use efficacy  

The webinar was in partnership with Canada Grains Council and CropLife Canada

Gene editing 

Gene editing involves making precise, targeted changes to an organism’s specific DNA sequence, the same that could occur in nature, but in a more efficient way. When it involves plants, it’s categorized as a form of plant breeding. Traditional plant breeding methods can take a long time – sometimes a decade or more to get the desired result. Gene editing tools make the process of improving plants much more efficient. 

Gene editing is used to help prevent plant diseases, produce higher crop yields with less resources, make plants more adaptable to climate change, and reduce food waste. 

Is gene editing the same as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)? 

Gene editing a plant’s own DNA does not create a GMO. Gene edited plants and GM plants may both have improved traits, but genetically modified organisms typically include new DNA from another organism. While both are safe methods of crop improvement gene editing focuses on using a plant’s own genetic code to make an improvement. This means that the changes made to a plant through gene editing are similar to the kinds of changes you might see naturally over time or as a result of the plant breeding practices, we have been applying for thousands of years. Gene editing allows us to make them in a quicker and more precise way. 

For more information on gene editing  and