Okanagan growers take aim at genetic modification

A majority of respondents in a survey across Canada state they are opposed to apples being genetically modified. - morning star file photo
A majority of respondents in a survey across Canada state they are opposed to apples being genetically modified.
— image credit: morning star file photo

Okanagan orchardists say they have the required proof to fight genetically modified fruit.

A national survey indicates 69 per cent of the 1,501 respondents are not in favour of a genetically engineered apple.

“We are not in favour of genetically modified food because of the market risk,” said Glen Lucas, B.C. Fruit Growers Association general manager.

“The survey validated growers’ concerns that there could be a possible backlash against genetically modified apples.”

Lucas says there are several examples of genetically modified organisms being developed and negatively impacting market conditions.

Beyond domestic consumers, there is a concern some international customers could stop buying Okanagan apples if genetically modified organisms are allowed.

“Europe doesn’t like this kind of product,” said Lucas.

The survey was commissioned by B.C. and Quebec orchardists after an Okanagan biotech company applied to have a genetically modified apple approved by the government. When cut, the apple does not brown.

Seventy-six per cent of respondents stated the federal government has not provided adequate information about genetically modified food. A further nine per cent said they had not heard of genetically modified food prior to the survey.

Ninety-one per cent of respondents agreed that mandatory labelling of genetically modified food should be required by the  federal government.

If the food were clearly labelled as being genetically modified, 14 per cent of the survey respondents would purchase the food without hesitating, 45 per cent said it would depend on the type of food being purchased, and 35 per cent said that nothing could convince them to purchase genetically modified food.

Seventy-one per cent of the participants in the June 26 to 29 survey indicated they are in favour of having a special category of food (e.g. milk, apples, pablum, fruits and vegetables) that should not be genetically engineered or be free of genetically engineered ingredients.

The survey results will be sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the federal health and agriculture ministers for consideration.

“We want to express our concerns about the current regulations on genetically modified products,” said Lucas.

“People want more information. We would like the government to postpone further introductions (of genetically modified fruit) until they get their act together and have better public discussion on the issue.”



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