Biotech Wins by Giving Consumer No Choice
Biotech Must Cater to Consumers, says expert
ADRIAN EWINS The Western Producer 4apr02
"It's a hell of a thing to say that the way we win is don't give the consumer a choice, but that might be it." - Dale Adolphe, Canadian Seed Growers Association
VANCOUVER — Proponents of biotechnology are lighting a losing battle for the publics hearts and minds, says a Canadian expert on biotech issues.
And that is resulting in regulations that make it increasingly difficult to grow and trade genetically modified crops, says Dale Adolphe of the Canadian Seed Growers Association.
Perhaps the only way to turn the tide of public opinion will he to come up with a GM commodity that provides a direct benefit to consumers, he said last week. But he also warned that's not about to happen soon.
"I don't think there's anything on the horizon within five years, and that's a long time in terms of regulatory development," he said.
Adolphe, who gained plenty of experience with GM issues during his tenure as head of the Canola Council of Canada, said consumer critics often complain that all the benefits of GM crops go to the multi-national corporations that own the technology or to farmers.
Developing a GM commodity with a trait that provides a direct health or financial benefit to consumers would go a long way toward blunting that criticism. "If we can get a consumer benefit in there, maybe that will shift the consumers to accept the science." Adolphe said it's frustrating to see unreasonable rules imposed on the industry in response to ill-informed public opinion.
"We're losing the battle from the standpoint that regulators are imposing more and more regulations that have no science basis," he said in an interview after speaking to the council's annual convention.
"There are no food or feed safety issues here, but you're getting regulations and traceability schemes imposed on the system."
Another concern is the push from some groups to identify and label not only food products that actually contain genetically modified material, but those that are derived from products that may contain genetically modified material.
The problem is there is no analytical procedure that can determine on a scientific basis the presence of such material, so it has to rely on paper trails involving things like affidavits and identity pre served systems.
The issue of GM crops was a popular topic in speeches, questions and coffee-break discussion at the canola council's two-day convention.
Putting the issue uppermost in some people's minds was continuing confusion over new rules imposed by China to control the import of GM products, rules that some in the industry see as a blatant at-tempt by the Chinese government to take advantage of consumer concerns over GM crops to create new trade barriers.
When that's added to the continuing refusal by Europe to import GM canola from Canada, it raises red flags among canola growers and exporters.
Thomas Mielke, editor of Oil World magazine, said the fight over GM crops is so difficult because the opponents use emotions, not facts.
"Those who are opinion makers in Europe are on this subject not well educated," he said.
They just want to use the GM issue as part of a broader fight against globalization and multinational corporations, he said.
"It's more a political issue than a scientific issue," he said. "How can you fight those people?"
Adolphe said it's ironic that even as public. protests and op-position to GM food products seem to grow and even as new regulations and controls are put in place, the total acreage devoted to GM crops around the world is expanding.
That maybe what eventually brings the debate to an end, said Adolphe.
"It's a hell of a thing to say that the way we win is don't give the consumer a choice, but that might be it."
He said the canola industry is fortunate for now that it still has markets willing to take its products without concern over the GM issue, in Japan, Mexico, the United states. China and the Canadian domestic market.
"If some of those start to close their doors or put in regulations, it becomes more difficult," he said.
Many thanks to Percy Schmeiser for giving us this article. . . and for your determination in fighting Monsanto!
We hope you win. For if you win, everybody wins.