Ontario Agri-Food Technologies – FAQs

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Why can’t “normal breeding” and organic farming supply the world needs for food?

Although organic farming may have many admirable attributes, there is no evidence that it can be used on the immense scale and intensity that would be required to produce the quantity of food to sustain a global population.

Plant breeders using modern techniques have managed to annually increase world food production by about 1.5 per cent per year required to match population growth. The annual increase has been smaller each year and there are now doubts that an increase of this magnitude can be achieved with the narrow genetic variability available in modern crop plants. Breeders now use mutagens to modify genes and wide crossings with wild species to try to increase variability but this appears to be reaching its limits. An alternative is to introduce genes from other species to confer the needed diversity required by breeders. This is the role of agricultural biotechnology.

Organic farming cannot control loss of crops through insects or other pests when crops are grown on the large scale found on modern farms. Nor can organic farming effectively deal with adverse environment conditions such as drought, which is one of the aims of biotechnology.

In the past, traditional methods of agriculture required large numbers of workers. Modern agriculture has allowed food to be produced by a very small percentage of the population (2% in Canada) allowing people to have a much wider spectrum of careers required for a mixed economy that ensures a high standard of living for the majority of Canadians.

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