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Ask a Farmer: The Sawyers | Real Farm Lives

It’s a key driver in the Canadian
economy employing one and eight people across Canada, as well it’s putting food
on our plates and in our bellies. Crop rotation is changing what we grow on a
single piece of land year after year after year, so that we have a healthy
balance in the soil and we produce a more sustainable crop. in Canada, we grow canola, corn, soybeans, potatoes, and sugar beets that are genetically modified. We grow genetically
modified canola on our farm because it’s herbicide tolerant, it helps us manage
our weed populations, allows us to grow more, while reducing our carbon footprint.

One Comment

  1. Popeye Gordon Author

    *A new study on the increase in the heath of farmers since GMO crop science has become wide spread:
    Peer reviewed and published 27 September 2019

    "GM crops, particularly Bt cotton, has resulted in significant reductions in pesticide poisoning cases due to reduced applications and reduced levels of insecticide exposure. Reductions in farmer pesticide poisonings have been quantified in China, India, Pakistan and South Africa. Often cases of pesticide poisoning are not formally reported to health centers and the results on pesticide poisoning may be underestimated due to the lack of reporting. In South Africa, farmers reduced pesticide applications from 11.2 per year to 3.8, with reported cases of pesticide poisoning declining from over 50 per year to less than 10 over the first four years of Bt cotton adoption (Bennet et al. 2003). One-third of non-Bt cotton farmers in China reported cases of pesticide poisoning, compared to 9% of Bt cotton producing farmers (Hossain et al. 2004). Assessing the health impacts in India, reveals a reduction in cases of pesticide poisoning of 2.4 – 9 million cases per year (Kouser and Qaim 2011). Cumulatively, since 2003, when Bt cotton was first commercialized in India, a minimum of 38 million fewer instances of pesticide poisoning have occurred, with an upper potential of 144 million. Farmers in Pakistan growing non-Bt cotton reported up to seven instances of pesticide poisoning in the growing season with 35% reporting no instances, versus Bt cotton farmers reporting up to six poisonings with 45% reporting none (Kouser and Qaim 2013). A medical assessment of 246 Chinese farmers, involving 35 health indicators, found that fungicides associated with the production of non-Bt cotton had linkages to damaged liver function, while the insecticides used in non-Bt cotton production may be associated with severe nerve damage (Zhang et al. 2016). The use of non-glyphosate tolerant crops was found to likely reduce renal function and decrease serum folic acid.


    Mental health challenges and issues affect all walks of life and economic sectors, with agriculture being no different. Access to sufficient mental health resources can be problematic within the agriculture sector due to rural areas, remote locations and lack of access to mental health support systems. Unfortunately, suicide is a concern in agriculture. India has one of the highest suicide ratesin the world and research has examined the relationship between farmer suicide and the adoption of GM cotton. Research examining the relationship between farm suicide and Bt cotton adoption revealed a plateauing of the suicide rate following the commercialization of Bt cotton (Gruère and Sengupta 2011). Farmer suicides were trending upward from 15,000 per year, peaking in 2004, the year after Bt cotton

    was first commercialized in India. By 2007, the actual suicide rate was 25% below the extrapolated suicide rate. Cumulatively, the reduced rate of suicide associated with the adoption of Bt cotton represents the prevention of a minimum of 75,000 farmer suicides.


    The development of insect resistant crop varieties has begun to have a noticeable potential to improve human health through the reduction of cancer rates. Prior to the commercialization of Bt crops, maize in particular, insect damage to the harvested crop increased the potential for the development of harmful health effects. A study of 21 years of maize production quantified that Bt maize contained lower concentrations of mycotoxins (29%), fumonisins (31%) and thricotecens (37%) (Pellegrino et al. 2018). Mycotoxins are both toxic and carcinogenic to humans and animals and are considerably more concerning in developing economy food systems where access to food safety toxicity tests are less prevalent. Fumonisins are correlated to being the cause of higher rates of neural tube defects in high maize-based diets (Missmer et al. 2006). With food security challenges existing in many developing countries corn containing mycotoxins are consumed as part of the household diet due the lack of any other option.


    GM crops have made significant contributions to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goals one (reducing poverty) and two (reducing hunger). While increased yields have contributed to higher household incomes, which reduces poverty, the increased yields have also enhanced household food security. Biofortified GM crops have been adopted, increasing micronutrient availability (Hefferon 2014). Nutritionally enhanced foods improve an individual’s nutrient intake, preventing and/or treating leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Improving the nutritional content of daily food consumption certainly has day to day effects, but of significant importance are the long term effects that extend for decades over the course of an individual’s lifetime. In many instances, improving macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, fiber) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, functional metabolites) has significant childhood health improvements, such as reducing blindness due to the lack of vitamin availability. Improved food nutrient content, especially the increase in mineral availability, contributes to improved immunity systems and reduces stunting. In many developing countries, plant-based nutrient intake accounts for one hundred per cent of an individual’s nutrient diet, further highlighting the importance of nutritionally enhanced crop derived foods. As the later in life benefits from improved childhood nutrition are better understood, the full value of nutritionally enhanced GM crops and foods, may not be realized for several decades." see the full paper at


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