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Ag research under the microscope

The Agricultural Institute of Canada looks at the implications of changing government support

Source: Alex Binkley, ONTARIO FARMER
Section: News Page: A23

The Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC) is hosting its first national policy conference this summer to take a hard look at what’s happened to agriculture research in recent years and its future direction.

Governments have moved away from basic research to support applied research and partnerships with commodity groups to pursue marketable projects. AIC CEO Serge Buy says it’s time to discuss what this means for the future of agriculture scientists in Canada.

The conference July 12-14 in Ottawa will focus “on how we move ahead during the next few years,” he said in an interview. “While the research sector needs more funding, it also has to be clear on how the partnerships between the public and private sectors will proceed.”

There remains a clear need for basic research to gain the knowledge that will translate into new products and farming techniques for the future, he added. “We want to focus on this issue during the conference. We hope there is a good debate on both side of the issue.”

“We have to make sure that proper basic research is carried out in Canada”

The goal is to create an agriculture research policy over the summer that will be ready for release after the federal election in October.

The AIC aims to attract scientists, producers, government officials and businesses to the conference to create a policy for the 21st Century that will make Canada a leader in research standards for innovation and sustainability.

Buy says the Council has been examining itself to determine its mandate and future role. “We’ve really been looking at where agriculture is going.”

Including individual and group memberships, the Council is in contact with several thousand people in the agriculture community.

“If Canadians – and our export markets – are to be able to derive food, bio-products such as renewable fuels and bio-materials, and environmental goods and services from agriculture, people with professional expertise and science from a broad array of disciplines are urgently needed – from agrologists, bioengineers, crop protection scientists to zoonotic disease specialists,” the AIC says in a backgrounder on agriculture research.

“They may be soil or animal scientists, agronomists, food scientists, economists, geographers, farmers, geneticists, engineers, health professionals, public policy analysts, government regulators or business managers or owners. They may work in government, business, not-for-profits or academia.”

“Collectively, they invest their intellectual capital to satisfy individual and societal demands of contemporary agriculture, for example from improving yields to discovering and extracting new value streams from agribased products.

“They all share a common science-based concern on how to increase the sustainable output from the agriresource base and how to ensure that the end-products derived from that resource meet consumer and societal needs. Now and into the future. Goods and services that are green, safe, and healthy. Products that make our lives richer.”

Learn more about the conference and how to register here.