By Talia Joundi
On Nov. 23, the University of Manitoba welcomed a new Monsanto Canada Breeding Centre. Meanwhile, protesters gathered on campus to oppose the opening.
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, relocated its Canadian corporate head office to the U of M in 2005, following the construction of a new office building. The new $12 million Monsanto Canada Breeding Centre will act as a site for breeding activities and research, covering nearly 2,700 square metres; the centre is located just next to Monsanto’s existing office at the U of M’s Smartpark.
“The key purpose of Smartpark is to facilitate innovation, and Monsanto is a global corporation that is well known worldwide for its innovative research,” said Alan Simms, U of M associate vice-president (administration) and president of Smartpark.
According to Simms, the new facility will be undertaking research in canola, which was first developed at the University of Manitoba by Baldur Stefansson in 1974. “The centre will be continuing the success story of a remarkable Manitoban who used collaboration and innovation to achieve his scientific goals,” said Simms. Monsanto Canada currently invests nearly $30 million annually into research and development projects dedicated to canola. The centre will act as one of the several facilities on the continent pursuing breeding efforts for Monsanto’s canola business. Monsanto Canada believes they can double canola crop yields by the year 2030.
However, there are many who remain skeptical of these claims. Protesters gathered in University Centre to speak out against the expansion of genetic engineering in agriculture, and more specifically, the presence of Monsanto on campus.
The protesters believed that, although Monsanto may claim its products increase yields, in reality they pose a major threat to sustainable agriculture. They voiced concerns in regards to the growth of super weeds and thus the need for more chemical input, as well as the reliance on fewer and fewer seed varieties.
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