Food costs fluctuate as a result of weather, global trade issues and exchange rate variability; all factors beyond the control of farmers and food producers. What farmers can impact, though, is what happens on their farms across the country.
And that's the use of modern plant science technologies that help produce more food more cost effectively. Huge gains in productivity at the farm level have brought the cost of food in Canada down, over the last 50 years, compared to overall consumer income, according to Farm Credit Canada's chief agricultural economist.
“Canadians spend about 10 cents of every dollar, on average, on food purchases,” says J.P. Gervais. “In a developing country like China, consumers can spend up to 40 per cent of every dollar on food.”
Those productivity gains can be attributed, in part, to plant science technologies, like pesticides and biotechnology, says registered dietitian Carol Harrison.
Estimates show that Canadian families would pay about 55 per cent more per year on groceries, if those tools were not available to farmers.
“It's been estimated our food costs could go up by $4,400 dollars a year, and that would make it tough for a lot of families to make ends meet,” says Harrison. “It's important that we have a safe, nutritious and affordable, food supply so we can enjoy variety, which is really the cornerstone of a healthy diet. We have to keep those food costs down, and plant science technologies help us do that.”
Research has shown that without plant science innovations, we would annually be paying approximately 31 per cent more for bread, 47 per cent for fresh fruit, 52 per cent for fresh vegetables, and up to 76 per cent more for condiments, spices and vinegars.