Canadians rely on only four plant species – wheat, maize, rice, potato – for 60% of the calories in our diet. Globally, we are seeing increasing concentration in the seed industry coupled with alarming loss of agricultural biodiversity. This reliance on a shrinking number of crops and the lack of diversity in farmers’ fields makes us extremely vulnerable to factors such as severe weather (storms, drought, and floods), pests and diseases, and rising soil salinity. In contrast, as Canada’s climate changes, so must our approach to food production. Broadening the range of crops and crop varieties we grow is critical to increasing the resilience of our agricultural system.
If we hope to achieve this, farmers require plant genetic materials (seeds) that are adapted to our specific soils and environments. Right now, 95% of the seeds that produce Canada's major food crops have been bred for uniformity and performance under controlled conditions. In addition, the vast majority of vegetable seed purchased and planted by Canadian farmers is not bred for our landscapes and climates.
The five “program streams” of the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security will address these issues. Through Farmer Support, Applied Research, Public Access, Online Seed Services and Movement Building, our program team will work with farmers, researchers, businesses, governments and civil society organizations to maintain and expand the biodiversity at the heart of a resilient food system.