[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, February 26, 1998

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The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): I'll bring this meeting to order.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have appearing in front of us this morning the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council. We have Dick Huggard, Norris Hoag and Linda Poste-Flynn. Welcome. I'll turn it over to you.

Mr. R.J. (Dick) Huggard (Chairperson, Canadian Agri-Food Research Council): Good morning, Mr. Chairman, standing committee members and guests.

As mentioned, I'm Dick Huggard. I'm from Truro, Nova Scotia. I'm chair of the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council. Along with me is Norris Hoag. Norris is from Guelph. He's a director representing the provinces on the CARC council and on the board. Also with us today is Linda Poste-Flynn, who is with our secretariat here in Ottawa. She's our executive director.

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We're really very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you. In the time we have today, we would like to accomplish a couple of things. First we want to talk a little about CARC, to familiarize committee members with its role and its organizational structure. Second we'll talk about our strategy, to heighten committee members' awareness of the document, which we'll talk about a little later, “Canada's National Strategy for Agri-Food Research and Technology Transfer, 1997-2002”.

The key messages I would like to get across in my presentation are that CARC is a unique type of organization, it's the only network of its kind, and we have 800 volunteer participants from across Canada. It's a partnership of our stakeholders, which are the universities, industry and the two levels of government—federal and provincial. It's a structure that embodies a wide range of expertise that is capable of setting priorities in research and technology transfer. It's an organization that provides leadership and coordination and networking of research and technology transfer. Also important is that it's an organization that provides an organized single voice for all of the players, spanning all sectors in agriculture from the farm right to the consumer's plate.

Originally we had planned to speak for 30 minutes or so, but we've reduced that somewhat, so we'll probably speak a little less and maybe have more time for questions. So maybe I'll take seven or eight minutes and just talk a little about CARC and its role, and then Norris will talk for about fourteen minutes about the strategy.

With your consent, Mr. Chairman, we'll proceed on that basis.

The Chairman: Okay.

Mr. Dick Huggard: On the overhead is the organizational chart. It's a coordinating system. It's quite unique, as we've already mentioned. It was originally established in Canada in 1974. It's really a partnership of stakeholders drawn from the agrifood industry, the universities and the two levels of government. It's the only network of its kind in Canada, and probably around the world for that matter.

Its Canadian and provincial committee structure has about 800 volunteers. They identify issues and opportunities and can bring them up through the system, through agrifood research, development and technology transfer, and have them dealt with at that level.

I think it's really important to note that CARC is not a funding organization. Rather, its main role is to coordinate and set priorities for agrifood research for the benefit of all Canadians. There are provincial agriculture coordinating committees and each province in Canada has one, except for the Atlantic provinces, where the four provinces join to form one organization.

Those regional coordinating committees identify regional research, development and tech transfer issues, and can interact with the Canada committee structure, which is embodied in the CARC structure, to resolve issues of national importance.

So not unlike Parliament itself, CARC's volunteer participants are represented at council. They could be equated to members of Parliament in a way. The board of directors is equivalent to cabinet, and standing committees and other committees are established based on either discipline, like natural resources, crops, animals or food, or provinces. The shareholders or stakeholders are the constituencies of the universities, industries and government.

A competitive Canadian agriculture sector requires a coordinated approach to research and development probably now more than ever. It's important that Canada has a structure in place, such as we have in CARC, where key players can come together to prioritize and coordinate research and technology transfer needs.

CARC's coordinating system is a partnership of all stakeholders, and I think it's important also that 50% of our membership comes from industry. That's important, we think, because it ensures that we're effective, relevant and in touch with the grassroots. We also include in our membership representation from seven national organizations, such as the Consumers' Association of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology, the National Institute of Nutrition, and also Health Canada and NSERC.

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So we really feel we have good representation across the board and strong representation from the entire agriculture and agrifood sector. That provides an organized, single voice for all the players, spanning all sectors, from the farm right through to the consumer's plate.

The Chairman (Mr. Joe McGuire (Egmont, Lib.): If I may interject here, I want to thank Murray for getting this thing started.

We do have a vote at 10.15 a.m. If that has any influence on your presentation and your chance to get questions asked...but I leave it up to you. Members have had the handout for some time now, for a number of days. If you want to do something different because of the vote, I'll leave that up to you.

Mr. Dick Huggard: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We do want to have as much time for questions as we can, so maybe we'll cut this part short and go right to the strategy. Then we can come to questions.

CARC does have a mission. We want to be globally competitive. We want to be environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. In 1992 CARC made a strategy, through a consultation process across Canada. I think that really started the ball rolling as far as partnerships and some of those alliances were concerned. We're seeing a lot more of that today. That's strongly recommended in our new strategy.

The new strategy, started in 1996, takes us five years into the 21st century. I think that sets the challenges and the opportunities for the next five years.

In concluding my part in this presentation, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to say that we are a unique organization. I think it's important that we have an organization such as CARC. It provides a single, organized voice that represents all of the players in agriculture and agrifood. It spans all sectors and represents the industry all the way from the farm to the consumer's plate.

With that, I would like to introduce Norris Hoag. Norris will outline the findings of our planning process and will outline the strategic plan. That document will, we feel, very much take us into the next five years.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Norris Hoag (Director, Canadian Agri-Food Research Council): Thank you, Dick.

Mr. Chairman, standing committee members and guests, we are very thankful that you have provided us with the opportunity to present to you today Canada's national strategy in agrifood research.

I'll take just a few minutes to go through a few slides indicating a bit of the background to the study and what is in the document. We'll try to provide as much time as we can for questions.

I'll further brief you on the fifteen recommendations, which are grouped into three major categories—science and technology, partnerships in communication, and competitiveness.

Two main themes pervade the recommendations. First, it was imperative that the sector develop more effective and synergistic partnerships, as a continuing climate of restraint is making it difficult for any one organization to deliver major programs all by themselves.

Second, communication among the various agrifood players and the public needs to be improved. Those were very strong messages that came through with just about everyone contacted in the study.

As we move closer to the 21st century, the success of the agrifood industry, the agrifood research sector and indeed the Canadian economy will depend on capable management of the critical issues and the challenges we face ahead. Not only will domestic issues have to be effectively addressed, but the community also will need to ensure that the challenges inherent in working in the global marketplace are understood and managed.

We are looking at a Team Canada approach to the research that will be undertaken. This will be achieved through the development of the effective use of the innovative partnerships that have been recommended, improving in the communications processes, and in leading-edge research.

Research is only part of the whole, and not, as some would indicate, the major driving force. Further research can be segregated into three main areas. There are those who are funders of research, those who indeed are the users of research, and in fact those who are the doers.

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In popular management literature, it has been stated that leaders must now do the right things, as opposed to merely doing things right. Therein lies an opportunity in which government can be of great assistance to the industry by facilitating the process of discovering the right things. As you recognize, none of us have a monopoly on knowing what the right things are. Through CARC, we have an excellent opportunity to facilitate all of the players in trying to discover the appropriate direction for the future.

Now to the strategy. Just by way of background, in 1996 Keystone International, a consulting firm in the Ottawa area, was contracted to consult members of the Canadian agrifood community to develop and renew the strategy. Also, the CARC network—which Dick referred to as 800 volunteers across Canada—was used as a mechanism to create that kind of discussion. The objectives at the outset were to consult all stakeholders; identify and assess the challenges, the issues and the actions, in order to determine the initiatives and actions that we needed to be involved in for the next five years; and to document and develop a national strategy in agrifood research for 1997 to 2002.

The process involved a very thorough examination of the changing agrifood environment, both in Canada and around the world. The in-depth consultation process involved members of the agrifood community, federal and provincial governments, and universities, along with the private sector. Responses represented 921 individuals, with a response rate of 31%.

We felt very confident that, with the kind of response rate that we had, we had a good, representative sample of the agrifood community across the country. It resulted in fifteen recommendations, and they are grouped into three areas. I think these three areas become an important note in our presentation. In fact, we see the important headings to be science and technology; the establishment of partnerships and communications within the process; and indeed, a focus on competitiveness if we are going to an economic force in the agrifood business in the world.

Much of what I'll say today may seem somewhat obvious; however, it is important to recognize that it in fact represents a consensus opinion of those involved in the industry from across Canada.

Two key messages pervaded the whole process. One was that we must be involved in establishing partnerships, again referring back to the theme that any individual group or organization can no longer do it all and that we must work together.

The second area is the area of communications. The sharing of information and research results, and foreign regulations and international access, will be critical to the future of the Canadian agrifood sector. The increasing sensitivity and evolving demands of consumers also mean that the agrifood research community will need to ensure clear, effective communications to continue the environment of trust and confidence that currently exists. It will be essential to more effectively identify both the concerns of the consumer and the market trends to ensure that the research community can produce targeted, new products and methodologies that will assist the industry in capturing those new markets.

The documents is divided into three areas, which I have already mentioned: science and technology, communications and partnerships, and competitiveness.

Under science and technology, we want to emphasize that science is critical for the continued success of the agrifood sector. It provides the foundation for the development of new methods and tools that are the basis for market success. To compete effectively, the research community will need to support targeted research through the development of national and regional priorities—and I emphasize that we need to deal with both national as well as regional priorities in this process.

Canada needs to more effectively manage its human resources. Canada's scientific vigour is based on the foundation of researchers from different age groups, different origins and different experience. For the agrifood industry to keep pace with the rapid technology changes and develop products that require new and sophisticated technologies, Canada must ensure a balance of scientific resources both in terms of long-term, permanent researchers, as well as short-term, contract scientists who come in to handle and help us with specific problems.

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Moving on to the partnerships and communications area, we are looking, and indeed, time is overtaking us, in that the formation of partnerships, both geographically across Canada and between government and industry, is happening. I would like to think it's happening partly as a result of the discussions we've had in this process, but it's also because of the economic forces that are driving that kind of a process.

In the process, we have also received comments about the fact that there is a perception of duplication, partially because of the geographic distribution and the fact that each geographic area tends to want to do its own research. We need to be smart enough to capitalize on the good points of that geographic distribution and share the findings across our whole system, particularly in the basic research areas.

We need to improve science education in our schools, in that in order to sustain and understand the contribution of science to our food system the populace as a whole needs to understand that it is indeed scientifically based.

This last point we mention emphasizes that we need to satisfy consumer issues. Consumers do have many perceptions, based on sources of information from around the world, and we need to communicate and address those issues to maintain that confidence that does exist, I believe, in our food system.

Also in regard to partnerships and communications, the Canadian agrifood sector enjoys that reputation of high-quality, safe food, but the public is not fully aware of the contribution research makes.

Effective technology transfer from public laboratories to industry can provide a fast-track method for industry in obtaining the needed processes and technologies. The present system of tech transfer requires some refinement, especially with respect to food technologies. Efforts will need to be made to ensure that the tech transfer becomes an integral part, from the bench to the marketplace.

We are fortunate in Canada to have a Canadian Agriculture Extension Council with representatives from each province, and indeed, they are represented on our council. This group is ideally situated to facilitate the technology transfer in an organized and coordinated manner across Canada.

The final recommendation with regard to partnerships and communications deals with the dissemination of research results. The agrifood research community will need to widely broadcast current ongoing research and the availability of new technologies in order to foster alliances and ensure the effective adoption of the newest technologies. Indeed, those alliances are international, and our contribution in the science community allows us access to information on a global basis.

In the area of competitiveness, the focus is really on the application of our science-based findings and coordinates those with the issues around trade agreements. The introduction of trade agreements has created unprecedented opportunities in Canada in terms of being able to sell products in new markets and being able to access technologies and information from a wealth of new sources.

However, with this new freedom comes the need to address the requirements of these new markets and effectively work in international consortia while adequately protecting Canadian innovations. Canada will need to provide its scientists and managers with the skills and tools to effectively interact in that global environment.

While it is important to respond effectively to the short-term market requirements, it will be necessary to ensure that Canada maintains a strong research foundation for future scientific development. Long-term research for the public good is expensive and time-consuming and, as a result, has traditionally been the preserve of the public sector.

We need to find a balance between responsiveness and sustainability in research. We also need to ensure that there is no further erosion of the present resource base. Government dollars are encouraging partnerships, and through such mechanisms as the matching investment initiative program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, these dollars are being matched by industry.

In Canada, to remain competitive internationally, we need to ensure that the international regulatory environment is science-based. In order to satisfy the needs of the consumers and industry, both groups need an opportunity to contribute to the development of policy in the regulatory areas.

Canada enjoys an excellent food regulatory reputation. There will be an increasing pressure to harmonize food inspection, testing and approval regimes, and safety standards. The challenge for us is to ensure that Canada's current safety and quality levels are not jeopardized, as this could both endanger the health of Canadians and erode international confidence in our food supply.

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The report concludes that not only will domestic issues need to be addressed but challenges in the global marketplace must be effectively managed. A Team Canada approach that includes partnerships, improved communication, and leading-edge research will be the key. These can be achieved by Canadian researchers and managers employing new business skills to attract and maintain investment and skilled human resources.

Relevant research and technology is essential to the survival of the Canadian agrifood sector. The global market is driving business to produce products at a reduced cost. In return, the industry is pushing the agrifood researchers to develop the most efficient technology to answer consumer needs. The key to Canada's agrifood research success is to develop clear priorities and to combine resources to meet those ends.

In conclusion, it will be necessary for each organization to develop a specific action plan and performance indicators for the implementation of the 15 recommendations that I have just reviewed. The successful implementation of these recommendations through a concerted national effort will result in significant benefits to all members of the community and create wealth and jobs for Canada.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a pleasure to make this presentation to you regarding the Canadian national strategy for agrifood research and technology 1997 to 2002. Dick and I would be very happy to respond to questions.

The Chairman: Thank you, gentlemen. We will go immediately to questions.

Mr. Hoeppner.

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Portage—Lisgar, Ref.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to the committee, gentlemen. It's a pleasure seeing you here. Research, as far as agriculture is concerned, is number one in my books.

I would like to ask you how you're structured. I see you have 800 members. Do they pay a membership fee to belong to your organization?

Mr. Dick Huggard: It's a structure that's rather unique, as we said. They contribute in many ways, lots of times through the resources they have. They're volunteers, and each in their own way will contribute to various projects, to some of the workshops that are being done or some of the studies that are being done. Those resources are provided by all of our constituents in many different ways.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: Then how much government funding do you get? Are you an arm's length organization or do you tie directly into Agriculture and Agri-Food?

Mr. Dick Huggard: We do get some core funding for our secretariat in Ottawa, for the three staff members we have, from the federal government. Beyond that it will be the resources that are provided by our constituents. That answers with respect to the funding.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: What I was getting at, Mr. Huggard, is how do you tie into the issue of cost recovery? We hear so much on the Hill of cost recovery. How much is the public good, how much is private good? Does this tie into any of that or are we home free on that if we just let you operate?

Mr. Dick Huggard: As far as cost recovery is concerned, that money is there to provide the basic resources at the secretariat. The other resources are put in there. Whenever we run workshops or those types of strategic plans, there's cost recovery that comes back into the CARC system because of payments to attend and be part of that. Linda may wish to add to that, or Norris.

Mr. Norris Hoag: I would add that as opposed to using the term “cost recovery”, I think we need to look at the notion of partnerships with the private sector, where in fact many of the programs in the cost recovery or matching of funds is happening at the research level, either in universities or in research institutions. For instance, in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, with their matching initiatives program, indeed the industry is coming together dollar for dollar matching the investment in research there. In universities in the province that I represent, they are virtually at the point of matching dollar for dollar with industry. So while one may talk about cost recovery, in fact it's more of a matching of dollars at the bench level where the research is really being done.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: Where does your organization tie into as far as research stations are concerned? For instance, I have the Morden research station in my area, and as you know, the kind Liberals just about killed me in the cutbacks. They took over half of my staff and moved them to their nice constituency of Brandon and Saskatoon. At that time I said to the research people or the staff who were left that maybe this was a blessing in disguise because we know more money is going to have to come from the private sector. I can report to you today we are one more employee at the Morden research station now than we were when the cutbacks came in.

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Where do you tie into this in directing funds or research? I know the Canadian Wheat Board has an automatic check-off for research and somebody must be able to access those funds and direct them where to go.

Mr. Dick Huggard: As for the federal government, Agriculture Canada is one of our constituents and as such do have the responsibility for those research stations. A lot of the partnerships being developed are with staff at those stations, with people at the stations. As you mention, at some of these stations there are actually more people, and at some quite a few more than there were before, particularly because of programs such as matching initiatives, the investment initiative program. There is a very close tie. The people at those stations...and I know there has been some restructuring there right across the country, but in actual activity at those stations, I think with some of the new approaches it's very positive.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: I was just going to add to that. I think whoever is responsible for bringing in this private sector funding has done a terrific job.

An hon. member: The Liberals.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: I'm laughing right now, because they wouldn't want to cooperate with me. You can see it's been very positive for me.

I was just going to ask you now, as a politician and also as a farmer—I'm still involved in the farming issue, because I do rent my property out on a third-share basis, so I take the lumps with the good stuff—what can I do to promote this type of funding and sharing or cooperation between the private sector and government?

Mr. Dick Huggard: I think that's a really good question. One of the things we did in CARC was to build up the private side of our council, so now 50% are from industry. Many of those are farmers, coming from the various regions right across the country. It has really strengthened our overall organization too, because we're closer to the grassroots. As a producer, you have a wonderful opportunity, either through your provincial coordinating committees, as you would have in your province, or through some of the Canada committee structure, to have input directly into the CARC system. I think it has been very rewarding, the way this has developed, and we can see this will be very important as we go into the next five years in particular.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: The toughest question for the last: how successful are you in warding off government influence and making decisions that are probably in the best interests of the stakeholders, not government?

Mr. Murray Calder: You got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: I think it's a very important question, because if you want to stay credible, you have to have some kind of mechanism, or at least bring the public perception forward that you are independent.

Mr. Dick Huggard: I'll ask the others to comment in just a second, but I think we do have quite an unique organization just because of that. We are independent and we are based on science. We must be a credible organization if we're going to have any influence in doing the priorities and so on. We do have that independence. Our four constituents are represented with key people on the council. Around the table we are credible, we feel, and independent from influences that are of a non-scientific nature.

Mr. Norris Hoag: I could add to that a couple of comments. I would like to reflect the fact that the purpose of CARC really is one of coordination, which means we do some needs identification with the 800 people across Canada who help us do needs identification and set some priorities. While it's not a straight-line relationship between that process and those who do the research, by and large that sets the research agenda for both the federal stations and the provincial stations and universities.

Clearly the budgeting process of government dollars is a process of government. I suppose that is where it is influenced. I would have to say, as the head of a research organization in the province I come from, that when we get down to deciding how those dollars are spent and setting those priorities, the OASCC system in our province, which is part of CARC, really does set the priorities of where those dollars will be spent. It doesn't deal with the amount of dollars, but it does deal with how they are spent.

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The Chairman: Mr. Coderre.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: We need—

The Chairman: Excuse me, Jake; you're finished. We go to Mr. Coderre.


Mr. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.): Good day, Gentlemen. First of all, I would like to say hello and thank you for being here. Obviously, a bit like my colleague, I believe that the question of research, as it directly regards productivity and competitiveness, is extremely important.

In fact, I would like to talk about competitiveness. How, in your opinion, can we reconcile competitiveness and productivity on the one hand and our present health and environmental standards on the other? You are aware that, very often, when we go up against the Americans, the Europeans or the South Americans, we find that they don't necessarily have the same standards as us. How can we reconcile these standards with our desire to be competitive and productive? How can we keep up with them, given our own present health and environmental standards?


Mr. Dick Huggard: That's an excellent question, and it's one we've had a lot of discussion about. It was certainly brought up through our strategic planning process. I'm going to ask Norris to comment on that.


Mr. Denis Coderre: Thank you.


Mr. Norris Hoag: One of the recommendations indeed directed that. We expected, in the beginning of the process, that there would be comments to the effect of reducing standards in favour of competitiveness. In fact the consultation process told us the exact opposite. There was very strong encouragement, and one of the recommendations indicates that in Canada we have a marketable commodity by having very high standards. We continue to have those standards while at the same time working from the marketing perspective in trying to sell that pristine image of what Canada can produce around the world. In fact that image in itself becomes a marketable commodity.


Mr. Denis Coderre: Mr. Chairman, I would like to apologize for only greeting the gentlemen and not acknowledging the presence of Ms. Poste-Flynn. So, Greetings, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for reminding me, dear colleagues. I'm not a macho; my generation isn't like that.

I would like to talk to you about ethics. We had discussions with members of UNESCO and it is clear that one of the issues with a direct link to productivity and competitiveness is the question of ethics in reproductive techniques. Have you considered a clearly defined code of ethics, seeing as how it is becoming easier and easier to play with genetics?


That was a tough question.

Mr. Dick Huggard: No, that's fine.

The Chairman: Jake thought he was tough.

Mr. Denis Coderre: The message blew up.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Dick Huggard: I'm sorry about that, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Norris Hoag: This leads to a question that of course is most topical in the agriculture community. I think the word used in the industry now is “biotechnology”, the identification of genes and the moving of genes around in a breeding program.

I would like to say at the outset that I think we need to put this into perspective in that we have been manipulating genetic material for years. This is merely a new tool coming to the fore that we can use. In actual fact, in some instances it is more precise than some of the traditional breeding techniques we have done.

I emphasize the notion that this is a tool. In the work I'm involved in, we still need to look at what has to be done and use that tool to help us do it.

It was mentioned that we need fusarium-free wheat. In fact, I know there are programs, both at the federal level and at the provincial level in Ontario, that are focusing on doing that right now. It is indeed very important in our economic process. We sell wheat around the world, both from the west and right across Canada, and wheat products. Probably that's more important. We need to convert the commodity into products we can sell. If we're going to do that in the wheat business, we need to have mould-free product.

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The tool we're talking about, of being able to identify genes that cause resistance to this in crops, is something that will help us become very uniquely competitive. One of the opportunities we have in Canada, being a northern climate, is that, particularly as we experienced with ice storms this January in this particular region, although we sometimes feel we are at a disadvantage climatically, we can turn that to our advantage by developing unique products that in fact will grow here, disease-free, because we are a northern climate. By using biotechnology techniques we are able to enhance that, and move that along faster.


Mr. Denis Coderre: That leads me to ask two short questions. Firstly, I have great difficulty with the growth hormone issue. Among milk producers, they talk about the famous rBST. Is your council responsible for doing research on the tests, on the hormones and on the presence of hormones?

Secondly, you tell me that, within your strategy, you want to eliminate overlap and duplication, which is ok by me. However, there's always the old squabble about national standards. How are relations with Quebec at present? Is Quebec ready to take part in a national strategy and to accept national standards?


Mr. Dick Huggard: You have a couple of questions there.

First, we want to mention that Quebec, in terms of the whole system, is very active through CORPAQ and the representation on council, through Hélène Tremblay. So they've been participating. They were very much involved in developing this.

In terms of standards, I'm going to refer to Norris again. We certainly need to address that whole area. We don't actually, in CARC, do the testing and so on, but our membership would.

You've brought up one issue with respect to hormones. Those are decisions that have to made by society, based on the best science available at the time.

With those few introductory comments, I'm going to ask Norris to finish that, because this is an area about which we've had a lot of discussion.

Mr. Norris Hoag: You have asked specifically about recombinant BST. To answer the question, I would like to segregate my comments into two areas.

First of all, there's basic research, which develops the technique of being able to do that. Secondly, there's applied research, which determines how it's applied.

Fundamentally, in terms of the basic research, growth hormones were developed in the creation of human medicine to address issues to do with dwarfism. That same kind of technology and basic research then started to be applied in the agriculture area. It was first attempted in the dairy industry. As I think Dick indicated, we have heard from society that there are concerns about that.

So the science and the capability, in and of itself, is neutral. It's neither good nor bad. How we apply it becomes a very sensitive issue—in this instance, sensitive as to how society's going to use it. However, in making decisions around this, we need to be cognizant of the fact that Canada is not an island. We work in a global community. Other members in that global community indeed are using these technologies. Whether they use them to directly market a product based on that technology, or whether that becomes a step to the next piece of technology, is each country's choice.

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For instance, the whole research community is dealing with the unknown, and it's very difficult to predict the unknown. As we go from here, we don't really know what the next step will be, using rBST as a platform.

So I think from a science point of view, I would argue that we need to be involved. How we are going to use it at any given time is a societal issue, and no one knows better than you as government representatives how those standards are established.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

We'll go to Mr. Calder and then Mr. Proctor.

Mr. Murray Calder: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Linda, Dick, Norris, good morning.

In the early 1990s we broke the DNA code, and with the amount of movement we have made since then, I can only guess at what's going on in level four research right now, and then finally level one, until it's finally out the door into the general public.

But from a provincial perspective, I obviously know, and as my colleague has already stated about BST, there has to be an education process here, because the strides we're going to make in research and development right now are quite frankly going to scare the hell out of the general public if they're not properly informed. So I'd like to know how you think that should be addressed and what measures should be put in place to address that problem.

The other thing I'm curious about is that obviously every country in the world right now has its own research and development program, and with us being very close with the United States—I'm thinking about the pesticide regulatory agency and the problems we have in that right now—what measures are being put forward that we share research with the United States?

Then finally, this committee has been going through MAI, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Have you taken a look at that issue and do you have any concerns about it?

Mr. Dick Huggard: That's three questions.

Mr. Murray Calder: Yes.

Mr. Dick Huggard: I'll just comment, perhaps.

On the first one, about the concern about biotechnology and that people get a little nervous about some of these things and what it's going to lead to, I think we all have to dwell on the good things biotechnology can do, the things like improved health and reduced disease and some of the other good things about biotechnology.

Within our system, we recognize that. It came out very strongly in the strategy, that we have to mount an increasing program with all of our constituents to ease that concern. It's like anything new; there's a fear of the unknown.

I think Norris will perhaps comment on that a bit further, because it goes right back to school days and to the general public.

On the pesticide regulations and our sharing, I guess the one comment would be that with respect to research, Canada contributes to a worldwide pool of research. There is a big sharing of research activities around the world, and today with communications the way they are, this happens very readily and scientists within disciplines do know what each other is doing.

I think that's a really good point. I think that's something we have to work on a lot more as far as regulations are concerned. One of the things that came out in the strategy is that we don't want to compromise downwards in any of the standards that we currently have in Canada.

With respect to your last question, I'm going to ask Norris to comment on that, because that has come up as well.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Murray, I have a couple of comments.

First of all, on the standards in science, I think we are seeking to work with our world partners in establishing and accepting each other's standards in terms of science. That's basically what science has done, what the world will accept in terms of testing requirements.

That doesn't influence, however, the sovereign right of any nation to determine how it applies those standards, and I think we are seeing that playing out in Canada at this point in time. We are growing much closer to a point where the same standards of science and testing are being accepted between the two countries. At the same time, Canada still reserves its right as to how they are going to apply those standards.

• 0955

In other words, we will accept what standards we will apply in Canada versus what will be applied in the States. I would expect that most of us here, as Canadian citizens, would argue that is a right we wish to maintain. And through the parliamentary process, those decisions will be made.

There's one other comment I would like to make. I'm not really in a position to comment on the MAI. I haven't been close enough to it. But I would say that in terms of the relationship of Canadian research with that done in the rest of the world, to some degree that's a price tag we pay to be part of a worldwide information club. The statistics tell us that Canada represents about 2% of the world research that is conducted.

One might argue whether or not we are a big enough player to make a difference. I would argue very strongly that we are, and in actual fact, that allows us into the worldwide information system. First of all, it will give us some technologies that we can trade for other technologies around the world in order to get information, but more importantly, we have people here who have the capability of reaching out into the rest of the world, learning new technologies, and bringing them home for us to adopt and put into place. It's an essential part of our being a part of the worldwide community.

The Chairman: Mr. Proctor.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Thank you very much.

Mr. Hoag, you indicated in your presentation that there were a number of domestic issues that need to be prioritized. Could you take us through some of those?

Mr. Norris Hoag: We have touched on some of those already. We've talked about the fusarium in wheat, which, two years ago in the province of Ontario, was virtually a disaster for that crop. I'm not as familiar with the situation in western Canada, but it is always an ever-present omen, and we need to deal with that, with the whole area of biotechnology.

In the area of environment, I think all of us are aware that as we move into a more industrialized approach to food production, we cannot do it without being good users of our environment.

Those are the areas that I think come very high on the priority list, and these are the things we need to prioritize within our whole system. I know I'm talking to you very generally, but—

Mr. Dick Proctor: That's fine. It was a general question.

To come back to the question of biotech and genetic engineering, which I know has been discussed earlier, on page 8 of your document you note that the Canadian public is cautious about accepting products from new technology.

It seems to me from what I'm hearing this morning that your organization feels we have to move ahead in this area. What are the techniques that your organization is adopting or employing to overcome the public's caution in this regard?

Mr. Norris Hoag: One of the fifteen recommendations talks about educating people generally in the area of scientific principles. That, married with the other concept that we've talked about here, which is that people fear what they don't know about...I think if we can influence and indeed develop people. It's not that we want to make everyone in Canada a scientist, but at least I think there has to be a fundamental understanding of scientific principles. That in itself will help reduce the fear that people have about the new technologies.

In addition to that, in the agriculture and food community we have a responsibility, I think, on top of that, based on those principles, to communicate what in fact is going on and to indeed be very open about telling people about it and spending time on helping people understand what these new technologies are.

Again, I come back to the principle that the science and technology that we discover, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad; it's how you use it that can perceived as either positive or negative.

Mr. Dick Proctor: You indicated as well in your brief that you're working with the Canadian government and all of the provincial governments. Is there generally good cooperation amongst all levels of government in terms of support for the work that the association is doing?

Mr. Dick Huggard: I would say very much so. The spirit to work together is there. I think everyone has the same feeling about what it's going to take to keep Canada highly respected for what it is we do in terms of the quality standards that we maintain. Research really is the key to more productivity at home, because that translates into better international trade opportunities.

• 1000

So, yes, I'd say there's excellent cooperation, and we're very pleased. When those 37 people sit around the table at council, it's like a who's who in Canadian agriculture, and there is very much a cooperative spirit of working together to address the issues and the challenges.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Dick, if could just add a personal example to that, my experience again comes from the province of Ontario, where I have responsibility in the agricultural and food research area. I would have to say I am very pleased with the relationship I have with people like Brian Morrissey, the assistant deputy minister of the research branch here in Ottawa, and Yvon Martel, the DG for eastern Canada. In fact, we are on the phone on a very regular basis to discuss issues.

We do sit down and talk about a differentiation of roles. Agriculture Canada will in fact spend time and effort in certain areas that have to do with needs within our province, and we will serve some of their interests in the research work that we're doing. In fact, we have had—and this is not unique, it happens in other provinces as well—bilateral agreements between the federal and provincial levels in terms of how we're going to go about business. Indeed, Ontario is in the process of renewing that strategy at the present time.

With the adjustments in budgets that have taken place both provincially and federally over the last two or three years, in a very real sense we realize that we cannot work alone. We must pool our resources and work together and try to at least manage the effort as one package.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Thank you very much.

The Chairman: Mr. McCormick.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for being here, witnesses.

Mr. Chair, I just want to mention something. I'm not on the steering committee, and any time we're not on an extra committee today that's terrific for everyone's schedule around the floor.

I do hope we're looking again at a visit to some of the biotech centres like Guelph and Saskatoon following this. Many of us will go, whether we do it as a group or whatever, because I always like to acknowledge—and I sure believe it—that we do have the safest, finest, highest-quality, best food in the world. There's no better.

You mentioned the fear of the unknown in regard to the biotechnology. One of the things I try to share—and I learned it from others—is the fact that biotech used to be known as good science. It's also part of our responsibility to frame this and give the information.

On rBST—I'll probably pick up on that since the Bloc is not here, but it's also a great interest of mine—half are dairy farmers. Some of them want it and some of them don't, while the public wonders why we need it. Your group and your people are most credible and your reputation is excellent, but for the rBST, for example, much of the research is funded by the players. For things such as the studies of rBST, Monsanto is there.

I would like you to speak to that if you would, because in regard to people accepting it—that is, my colleagues and your comments—I expect that some of the industry wishes it might have brought out the Flavr Savr tomato and perhaps other products when we talk about new products, versus bringing out that pure white, wonderful, wholesome milk. I'm just not sure it came out in the right order. I'll just toss that to you if I may.

Mr. Dick Huggard: I just have a comment about your introduction talking about how we get the story across, how we ease people's fears, and so on. I guess we have to talk very positively.

Biotechnology is a tool to do science, to do research, so I guess all of us need to be talking about the benefits of biotechnology. It's the word itself that creates a little fear there, but it improves production and productivity, improves quality, helps us manage our exports and meet the challenges out there, gives us healthier animals. If we can, let's keep talking about those things.

• 1005

On the second part of your question, I'll bet this debate has gone on around a lot of tables for a long time. It's a technology that is based on science. We're concerned, I suppose, that at some point in the future, if our competition does things we don't do, where that will leave us as a country and a society, I guess, and you in your leadership position. I suppose from our standpoint, providing the science will be key to that. That's one example of where other countries might be able to use something we don't. So if we put our industry behind the eight-ball, so to speak, we will have another whole set of questions to deal with.

We know exactly what you're saying. I've been involved in the dairy industry for most of my life and I certainly have heard all of the arguments. But at this time, while people seem to be concerned and think somebody else in another country might be using it, it's a bit of a marketing opportunity, so you have to take that into consideration too. It goes beyond science, doesn't it?

Mr. Larry McCormick: It does, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn from you and look forward to more of that in the future.

I don't expect you to comment directly on my remarks about Monsanto and the rBST, but I want to ask you whether you think there's much conflict in the way that research is funded by these people.

I would like to jump over to daytime television, which I hear is still playing across the continent. I think the beef producers should thank Oprah and give her the $13 million because I think she saved the industry by cleaning up its act on what it's feeding the animals. We have those standards here in Canada, and now United States has them.

As for whether we're going to lose to our competitors, the U.S. has the rBST, but we can also lose with some of these growth hormones. I'd like to get away from the hormones, but since we're talking about that I want to acknowledge that phenomenal opportunities will be available today and tomorrow in the agriculture sector. It's so exciting, I want to watch it.

The Chairman: Norris, do you want to comment on that?

Mr. Norris Hoag: Perhaps just to elucidate the comments you've made, whether we're talking about hormone technology or biotechnology, there are at least two sides to it, and in fact I would maybe say there are three sides.

There is certainly the science side, which I have already said is neither good nor bad, but it's how it's used. Society certainly has its views based on its values, in terms of how it wants to employ that. The element you have brought in by bringing in the private sector shows there's an economic side to that as well. I suppose we can have fears at any level in that process.

Sometimes we view economic motivation with some fear as well, yet on the other hand you will note that in my presentation I talked a considerable amount about competitiveness. When we talk about competitiveness we're talking about economics, and indeed we have to be aware of the business and the amount of business that is done in this country. So among those three areas we somehow need to develop a balance.

I've also referred to the regulatory process we have in Canada, which I think is equal to any in the world. Canada enjoys a very high reputation. Many countries of the world will look at what Canada does before they take their own positions. As a Canadian, I feel very proud about that and hope we will continue to support that kind of process.

On the other side, we all have fears, and I have some fears as well, that we could go too far, to the point where we become so restrictive from a regulatory process that we lose opportunity. Somewhere in there lies a balance, and you and I may have different views of where that balance might be. Only discussion through an organization like CARC will help us move toward getting some kind of consensus on where that balance might be.

Mr. Larry McCormick: I would just like to make a comment, if I could. I may have missed it—and I don't mean just in Canada and I don't mean just Monsanto and the rBST—but do you think there's much that needs to be questioned about funding the producers of a product when they fund, sometimes indirectly, the studies on the effect of that product? I would like to ask you for a comment, if you would share your thoughts.

• 1010

Mr. Dick Huggard: It's a good question. I suppose there are always some perceptions out there. We would feel scientists, whether they work for the private sector or whomever, would be doing reputable science. That would be the position of our organization.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Thank you very much.

The Chairman: If they are working for private industry, do you think that might influence their results?

Mr. Dick Huggard: Scientists have a great respect for each other no matter who they work for, and they don't always work for the same outfit forever either. A scientist's reputation is very, very important.

The Chairman: We've seen it in the tobacco industry and it didn't seem to be very important at all.

Mr. Hoeppner.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: I want to go back to this fusarium issue. In Manitoba we recognize that it was already more or less a problem in North Dakota or South Dakota years before, mostly in durum wheat. Then it seemed to transfer into the hard wheats. Now we have the problem with vomitoxin in barley. We never even dreamt of hearing anything like it.

I have heard or read in some places that if you can somehow control the vomitoxin in the barley, to a certain extent it's actually an enhancing agent for feed conversion. Where do you as scientists look into these issues? The tombstone has been devastating to our durum and hard wheats.

Mr. Norris Hoag: I'm entering into an area beyond my exposure to the details of what you're asking. I really can't get into the details of how fusarium works.

Certainly in research programs I'm involved with at the University of Guelph, work is going on in nutritional areas about the enhancement of the use of feed in animals using some of the toxins you are talking about. Particularly in the poultry industry some work is going on in that area. Obviously you have to be very careful in how you proceed in that process so you are in fact isolating and using the appropriate substances.

You mentioned vomitoxin. Of course in Ontario we are concerned about that in the area of corn as well, if you're feeding this to livestock.

In the U.S. a number of toxins are the result of moulds, because they tend to have a warmer climate and therefore greater exposure to that. One of the advantages we have in being farther north is that we avoid some of those. The problem is we don't avoid them all. We're into the fusarium and we're into vomitoxins.

All I can say right now is that considerable resources, both federally and provincially, are being devoted to trying to develop strains and varieties of wheat and corn in particular which indeed will become resistant to those. If we can ever unlock that case, it will put us in a very unique position in the world. We will have a product we can sell that would be very desirable on the world market.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: I want to get back to Mr. McCormick's concern about where research goes and this kind of thing. We found out with the fusarium and the tombstone that it probably wasn't as serious as we took it to be at the start. You could do some of the cleaning processes to get it out of there and a certain amount can be tolerated. The first time we had it in Manitoba, such a story was created out of it that people were scared to go into the bins and this kind of thing. You know what that does to the price of the product. It is so important, with some of these things, that when they do hit us we get the right information on them and not use the scare tactics, as Oprah Winfrey did. The end result, as Mr. McCormick said, may be beneficial in the long run.

At times the cost to producers is phenomenal. I know vomitoxin in barley.... I've had a whole slew of farmers phone me, Jake. It's hitting us really hard in the pocketbook, at 50¢ or 60¢ a bushel. That's disastrous with today's narrow profit margin.

• 1015

The Chairman: You can comment on that, then we'll go to Mr. Steckle.

Mr. Norris Hoag: If I can just quickly comment, I think we had an example in our province this year to do with dwarf bunt at the very beginning stages in wheat. Panic seized the operation, but as we worked with it over a period of about three to four days, we were able to segregate, grade out, and use most of the crop if we segregated it into the right proportions.

Clearly, we are better off to work toward developing a crop that's resistant and won't be affected by that. It'll be of least cost to us as producers. For consumers, it will be of least cost and a better product.

The process you're talking about is really one of segregating a product in such a way that you can tolerate a certain amount of contamination and use that in certain areas of feed. For instance, most often, ruminant animals can tolerate a higher level of a contamination from this perspective than monogastric animals. So you can sort it out and maybe make a use of it.

The best approach, however, is to move ourselves into a situation where it's not a problem. If it's not present, and then we don't need to go through the expense of the segregation.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr. Steckle.

Mr. Paul Steckle (Huron—Bruce, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Hoag, this morning, in your overheads, you had a suggestion in one of the bullets in terms of the importance of science education.

We're now heading into the spring time of the year, which is the time when schools have their science fairs. We have many ingenious science projects put forward by youth. Are you involved in that? Are you aware of that? What are we doing with some of these project winners? Are we recognizing them? Are we giving them an incentive? Are we encouraging these young people to pursue careers in science?

We spend a great deal of effort trying to tell Canadians that we think that science and research is important—look at the most recent budget—and we dedicated certain moneys for that. But I'm concerned that we're not recognizing our young people and encouraging them in those areas. How do you look at that? What are you doing in the areas of education, not only post-secondary, but in secondary and pre-secondary education?

Mr. Norris Hoag: At the outset, I would probably have to admit that we're probably not doing enough. On the other hand, I'm not sure what is enough in terms of encouragement.

As you indicated, both provincial and federal budgets have had incentives to promote science and encourage young people to develop and move into a scientific area.

I can speak, I guess, from personal experience in my own family. I am the father of three boys who have become engineers. Somehow or other, I would like to think that I had a bit of influence on them such that they indeed bought into the notion of science.

On the other hand, in coming down to Ottawa yesterday on the airplane, I sat beside a lady. We got talking about families. She has four children, who have all dropped science from their courses.

I'm not sure. I like your concept. We are probably not doing enough to seize on the science fairs and support people who do well there and showcase them so that in fact their projects are out.

I have seen some tremendous examples of biological sciences in science fairs. I've been involved with them through the University of Guelph and the Agricultural Institute of Canada. There's some very good work going on there, and perhaps there's more that we in fact could do.

Mr. Paul Steckle: If my colleague has a question, I'm prepared to defer to her for the next question. I have more questions, but I'll defer to her for the next one.

The Chairman: Mr. Proctor, then to Mrs. Ur.

Mr. Dick Proctor: We haven't talked about organics very much this morning. I don't have the documentation in front of me, but I saw some material recently that was attributed to Dan Glickman in the United States and what his definition of organic material is. It's rather surprising and, in my mind, horrifying.

I just wondered whether we have a—to use a word we've heard around here this morning—pristine view of what organic products are among the council.

• 1020

Mr. Dick Huggard: I guess from a provincial standpoint you will get different views of what “organic” means, and it's slightly different, perhaps, from different groups.

The objective of members of council would be that we maintain the image Canadian agriculture has. We do a lot of work in integrated pest management and on reduction continually in the use of any kind of chemicals for crop development, particularly in field crops, greenhouses, and so on.

We really haven't been directly involved with the organic movement as such, but certainly our members are involved, particularly those people who work at the provincial level. Provincial governments in agriculture will probably be working closely with their organic groups. From a marketing standpoint, there are many opportunities for that, because there's a market niche there that is being developed quite nicely at quite a few locations in the country.

Mr. Dick Proctor: I have just one other question, Mr. Chair, if I may.

I'd like to go back to the genetic biotechnology question. I've heard it said—and it's attributed to fairly senior levels of Agriculture and Agri-Food—that on genetics, we may be losing the battle for public opinion. Do you have a sense of that? Does your association do any polling or focus groups or things like that that could confirm or otherwise that allegation?

Mr. Dick Huggard: We don't do polling as such.

We have to keep talking about the good things we can do in genetics and genetic engineering. One of the areas where I think we could tell the story better would be the whole issue of biodiversity, because of our genetic base, and some of the opportunities we have by doing more research into that area. Most people, when they think about biotechnology and genetics, are thinking about some hard-to-understand genetic manipulation.

If we can keep emphasizing the good things out of biotechnology and keep working away at this.... It's not going to come easily, but all of us can do this. It starts with education at the school level, with a better, more thorough understanding of science.

Mr. Norris Hoag: If I could just add to that, I have a specific example that I think addresses your issue. Through a program of the Ontario government called Grow Ontario, we financed the FCPMC—the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada, which is a national organization—to do a study across Canada on the responsiveness of consumers to the word “biotechnology”. That was done last year and was reported in a meeting last November.

Interestingly enough, there was very little negative response in the general consumer to the word “biotechnology”, which addresses whether we are losing the battle. Based on that, I would have to say no. In fact people were not terribly interested or concerned in it.

There is an issue around how one communicates or talks about it. If you're not careful of how you communicate it, you can communicate a sort of Frankenstein image of this kind of technology. We all have to be very careful not to do that and try to at least maintain neutral ground where we are talking about science as a basis.

So the study said the communication around it is important, but through the survey—and the survey was done in a very interesting way, with focus groups—the words were never put forward. They didn't say in the process, “What do you think of biotechnology?” They left the groups to talk and bring out various key words. Then later the groups were prompted. Unless they were prompted, the word “biotechnology” never came up.

So I really do not believe we've lost the battle whatsoever; in fact I think it's very fertile ground. If we are judicious in the way we proceed, we have a very good foundation on which to build communications.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

• 1025

Before we go to Mrs. Ur, I want to remind the committee that our next meeting, the Wednesday after we come back, is with the leadership youth group. Each party is supposed to give the clerk the names of those who want to make a presentation at that particular meeting. It's with the Canadian agriculture lifetime leadership, or CALL, program.

The clerk is going to send out background material, translated, in the next day or so. Over the holiday—or over your break, I should say—perhaps you could all look at it.


Mr. Murray Calder: How does this presentation they're supposed to be making involve us?

The Chairman: Well, one member per party is to tell the CALL people what we do as a committee. I think Mr. Borotsik then wanted them to tell us what they do. So there's going to be an exchange between the two groups.

Mr. Murray Calder: Okay.

The Chairman: But you want one from each party. I guess there's no problem with the NDP or the Conservatives, but for the Reform—

Mr. Murray Calder: Oh, they're always a problem.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Chairman: It's a problem? The Liberals are also a problem.


Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Lib.): Thanks, Mr. Chair.

When you presented your points this morning you said your program's committing to updating the first five years, from 1992 to 1997, in terms of your strategy over the past five years. Do you have any statistics on the productivity of the program over the last five years?

Mr. Dick Huggard: I guess those things are difficult to measure. We're very pleased, in terms of the first strategy, that constituents did use it. It did form a guide for organizations within the structure. They all set their own priorities, of course, but it did have an influence there.

I think probably the one most significant thing was the emerging of consortiums and partnerships among stakeholders. We were very pleased about that. Some of what comes out in the second strategy encourages that this continue at an accelerated rate, particularly partnerships, because with limited resources, no one group can really do by themselves any more all the research that needs to be done, whether they're private or public. So I think that's all been really positive, too.

It probably brought more awareness as to why it's important for Canada to do research. If we weren't part of this world organization's new research, we'd be shut out of the club. I would also point out that there is specific research that needs to be done in Canada that really won't come from the rest of the world. We wouldn't have had soy bean or corn in this country if it hadn't been for research programs that were done here. So I think awareness probably would be one of the keys.

Norris can add to that.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Many of the recommendations in the 1992-97 study were formulated in a way that would be very difficult statistically to measure. They're more anecdotal. Some of the anecdotes have to do with fairly the major recommendations regarding the restructuring of CARC. Prior to this time, there indeed were two organizations. One was called CASCC, the Canadian Agricultural Services Coordinating Committee, and then CARC, the Canadian Agricultural Research Council. The two sort of worked together.

One of the recommendations was that they be amalgamated. That has happened. We are in the process.

Another one of the major recommendations that came out of that was that within the restructuring, 50% or more be from the private sector. We have restructured, and as our chairman has indicated, in fact a majority of people who sit on that board are from the private sector.

There were 39 recommendations in all. Of course, one of the recommendations was that in fact we do review this every five years, which is in fact what we have performed here.

In getting ready for this strategy, we did review and go through this. Every recommendation out of the 39 was acted on, but again, they were measured more in anecdotal terms than they were in statistical terms.

Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur: How is CARC addressing the environment and farming? That issue has been brought up in terms of the large operations springing up throughout the countryside. Concerns are being flagged.

Have you dealt with that issue at any length?

• 1030

Mr. Dick Huggard: Yes, we have. The whole manure management issue comes up and we have a committee within our structure that deals with the issue. Environmental sustainability has an awful lot to do with a lot of our programs, really. Large livestock operation siting was a symposium that was held here in Ottawa a couple of years ago that brought together the players and the concern, what are the bigger operations and how do we manage some of this?

There's a fair bit of research going on in that area probably from an engineering and a biotechnology standpoint, again looking at feed inputs and how you can impact on that, the animal itself. There is a lot of activity, and CARC's role, of course, is to coordinate that activity working closely with private sector organizations like the Canadian Pork Council and groups like that.

Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur: Would there be information available on that through your department? I think I'd be interested in seeing some data on that.

Mr. Dick Huggard: We do have a committee, as I say, and one of the projects they're involved in right now is to try to do a review of what is actually happening. We do have the ICAR system within CARC as well, which tells about the research that's going on, and we could supply that to committee members if that was—

Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur: That has been a concern in my area and probably for some of my colleagues. It might be interesting information for us.

The Chairman: If you will send the information to the clerk, we'll disperse it from there.

Mr. Norris Hoag: I'd like to add here that actually in every area we touch the environmental issue is all-pervasive when we are involved. You really should not touch an issue unless you are giving environmental concerns and considerations to it.

Gradually, I think we are building that into our total research system, whether it's AgCanada or whether it's one of the universities, that if in fact you mount a particular project we are encouraging very strongly that there's an environmental consciousness, whatever you find. What kind of environmental impact is that going to have? That's with everything we do, and obviously there are areas where we are zeroing in and resources are going into looking at minimizing the impact on the environment.

Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur: Under competitiveness, you said you were focusing research on clients' needs. What were some of the priorities in the past five years that you seemed to focus on?

Mr. Norris Hoag: You've caught me a little cold.

Mr. Dick Huggard: Just while you're thinking, Norris, maybe I'd comment that I think people want more involvement, whether it's regulations or science and so on. There are really two types of research, and one is your long-term fundamental, basic type of research as opposed to the applied. You need a good balance between those and you really do need the clients' concerns as part of the decisions that are made.

I'll turn over now to Norris.

Mr. Norris Hoag: There was a criticism in the last five years of activity in the research community. It was based on a perception that I think was probably greater than reality, but there was a perception that there were academic endeavours that were driving our investment in research as opposed to the practical, economic or client-driven needs.

I think what we're saying in this round of recommendations and projects is that we want to clearly spell out that research investment here should be based on client needs. Whether or not it's going to precipitate a lot of different activity, only time will tell. But I think we want the assurance and need to address this perception that somehow or other there was a force up here in academia that was driving what was going on.

In actual fact, we tried to analyse that particular area. It speaks to motivation on how you really deal with documenting motivation. I think it was terribly overstated, but nonetheless in the process of bringing out our recommendations we wanted to make it very clear that in the Canadian research system it should be client focused.

Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur: I agree. Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

We have questions from Mr. McCormick and then we'll conclude.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Yes, Mr. Hoag, I have a question in regard to a very specific geographic area in Ontario. I drink coffee and eat quite a bit of soup in New Liskeard. I love the area. That clay belt is very productive, and yet not more than one-third of it has been cleared. Some time, whenever, it will be probably opened up for homesteading, and it may be the time when we need food production.

• 1035

So I was a little concerned when I saw almost a collapse of research at that particular station, but that may be covered elsewhere in the country. I'm not looking to lay blame, but I think there's a great future in that clay belt that we have to explore and be ready for when the need arrives.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Thank you for the question. It's a very good one.

First of all, obviously the opening up of the north and the utilization of the north is an economic issue and will be driven by that.

As an aside, as we look towards the statistics of the future, when we claim that by 2030 we're going to have to be feeding 9 billion people on the face of this earth instead of 5 billion, areas like that are indeed going to have to come into food production. I think the statistics also indicate that there is really only about 10% more of the earth's crust available to feed people, so we have a major challenge in front of us in the next 50 years.

Getting back specifically to New Liskeard, you quite rightly have pointed out that we no longer have the college at New Liskeard. However, we did maintain exactly the same amount of research. We are continuing to do research, and one of the driving forces in that is a recognition that it is a climatically different zone. We are researching horticultural crops and livestock for that area. Indeed, all of our pasture and sheep work for the province is being done at New Liskeard.

So we are as heavily invested in research in New Liskeard as we have always been, and in fact, to some degree more, because we have private sector partners now.

The Ontario Cattlemen's Association has come on side in terms of wanting to be a partner. They came out voluntarily and said they would like to be involved in helping to maintain activity there, and to some extent there's more activity going on in New Liskeard now from a research perspective than there was, albeit there is no college there.

Mr. Larry McCormick: I thank you for that information and congratulate you on what you're doing there.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Thank you.

The Chairman: You're first and last.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to get back to the issue of research in agriculture and maybe also health research.

As you know, I come from an area in Manitoba where we have a tremendously high incidence of multiple sclerosis, and now lately it seems to be brain tumours in younger people. Is there any sharing of information between your research and the medical research? I think there's also an area in Ontario that has a lot of problems with MS for some unknown reason.

My brother, who is a doctor—and I lost a younger brother to a brain tumour, and maybe that's why it's more talked about in our family than others—says he would never buy a quart of BST milk if he had a choice.

So you can see the tremendous variation between research in agriculture and the medical research. I think we have to overcome some of those problems to convince the public that the biotechnical research is a benefit, because people are starting to pull back. I think that's very obvious, at least in my area.

Mr. Dick Huggard: First of all, I think there is a fairly major sharing of research in health and in agriculture, and a lot of it does parallel and a lot of them are similar in their objectives.

Health Canada is on CARC council; the Canadian Agri-Food Inspection Agency joins a lot of the people who do research in health and agriculture. So in answer to your question, I would say that there is significant sharing of research in terms of health. When you talk about health and food, you really are talking quite a lot about the same thing.

Mr. Jake Hoeppner: Thank you very much. It's a good answer.

The Chairman: Mr. Steckle has a question.

Mr. Paul Steckle: It follows along the line of discussion this morning in terms of the perception, and the public perception of what we're doing in science. There's the human element to science; there's the animal properties we're talking about; there's the plant properties. Somehow there's a differentiation between all three of those, at least in perception.

But I wonder if there isn't a science also in the way we go about selling science internationally. We can sell a product here, but Europe hasn't accepted the rBST. Some countries have and some haven't. The Americans have.

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I think there has to be an international sharing—and it's almost a science—of how we overcome some of the myths, if we may call them that, in the public view of what science is and what it does, and yet we know we must move forward and onward. I think there are some great...because even the gene properties in the peanut, as an example of plant properties, can be very disastrous if they are misused.

So I think it's important that we have an international view towards getting at the way we sell science, because we're affected by properties coming into this country and also by commodities and properties going out of this country.

Mr. Dick Huggard: Yes, very much so. I think you bring up a really good point. Some of the things that are being done are inherent in a lot of the discussions in international trade, and there is that concern, as you mention. And as you suggest, I think doing those communications is a science.

The world is getting pretty small, and some of the things that we talk about we need to do on an international basis. We don't want people shutting us out because of some of the things we do, or vice versa, so I think we have to promote.


Mr. Norris Hoag: First of all, I think I would refer to the fact that in the academic area Canada is part of that global community, and it's very desirable that we are in fact there. The sharing of scientific findings happens routinely at world conferences, to which scientists go to share ideas.

I think the economics side now is starting to encroach on this. We hear the terms “intellectual property” and “protection”, whether we're talking about patenting or copyrighting. There's really a whole business developing around the protection of international property, where people are trying to preserve in order to therefore be able to make a profit, to get a return on the investment that has been made in those areas.

I think the book is still being written in terms of how that's going to balance out. It's going to take us some time yet in terms of prudently dealing with the ability to protect and profit from a piece of science, versus being able to share on a global basis.

Dick has referred to the fact that the world is getting to be a smaller place. We only need to take a look at the Internet. After supper, I can sit down in my office, get on the Internet, and share information globally, around the world, as we all can.

Mr. Murray Calder: And that's just since 1994.

Mr. Norris Hoag: Oh yes, and that's just the start of that technology.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We were anxious to hear your presentations. These members have a very deep interest in biotech, and we'll be looking further into this topic as time goes on. There were very good questions here this morning, and equally good answers.

Mr. Larry McCormick: I have a quick question for you before we recess on the biotech issue.

Mr. Chair, we once discussed the fact that we do have a very small budget on this committee. We discussed whether or not we might be travelling to a biotech site. I'm happy to leave it to the steering committee, but I just wonder if you could bring me up to date on that, Mr. Chair.

The Chairman: Really, nothing has happened since the last time we discussed it.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Well, perhaps we could look at that at a future time, maybe when we come back from the week away from Ottawa.

The Chairman: Maybe we'll try to do something after the Easter break.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chairman: Mr. Proctor.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Mr. Chairman, first of all, you have biotech units right here in Ottawa. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's plant department is only blocks away, if you want to visit it. I'm sure they would be most anxious to have you visit there.

Secondly, I would be very happy to arrange something if you would like to come to see the activity around the Guelph area.

Thirdly, an international biotech conference is going to be held this June in Saskatoon. That will bring people from around the world together to talk about issues dealing with biotechnology. I just want to make you aware of that.

On a fourth point, although it is more pharmaceutically oriented, there is a similar conference being held in New York this year. It's the Bio '98 conference, and the reason I mention it is that it will be held in Toronto in the year 2000. You may therefore want to put that on your calendar with a view to attending those.

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Mr. Larry McCormick: Great. And you'd have a little more information on this that you could get us, Mr. Hoag?

Mr. Norris Hoag: I would be happy to provide you with that information.

Mr. Larry McCormick: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chairman: Mr. Proctor.

Mr. Dick Proctor: On the point of the steering committee, it's my recollection that we do have a meeting on Tuesday, March 10. Is that correct, Mr. Chairman?

The Chairman: It's Thursday, March 12.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Okay.

The Chairman: So it will be Wednesday when we come back, and then we'll have this meeting.

Meeting adjourned.