Some 150 people turned out Wednesday evening to plant pressure on the region to become GMO free.
The Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee (RAAC) meeting Wednesday was bombarded with residents from across the region. They hoped the committee would remind the Regional District of North Okanagan that making a decision on becoming GMO free is pressing.
Following a presentation earlier this year from Huguette Allen, Bee SAFE co-founder, the committee wanted to hear the industry side of the GMO topic.
“Our role is to listen to both sides,” said Mike Macnabb, Area C director.
Therefore Wednesday’s meeting featured a presentation by CropLife western division vice president Janice Tranberg.
“She presented the information as the industry has it,” said Macnabb.
Noting the advantages of GMO (or biotech) crops, Tranberg pointed out that they can stand up against the current and future growing challenges.
“As the population grows and climate change, we will be struggling to find plants that can adapt to drought or flood conditions,” said Macnabb.
“So there are some advantages.”
Despite a few interruptions, Tranberg managed to complete her presentation from the industry side.
“For the most part it went pretty well, I thought,” said Area B director Bob Fleming.
But the anti-GMO crowd says they are fed up with what they call ‘delaying tactics’ and expect the RAAC to make a clear statement advising NORD on the future of agriculture in the region.
“Hundreds of people wrote letters to NORD detailing the negative impacts of GMO crops and their pesticides, on health, the environment, food security, property and land value, and on the economic potential of the region,” said Allen.
“The committee as well as the board of directors have been warned that not making a decision is to sentence us to a corporate agriculture since there is no co-existence with GM crops. They contaminate other crops.”
The committee is looking at bringing forward a resolution, to be forwarded to RDNO, at a future meeting.
“It’s information gathering at this point, we have no capacity to vote on this, we can only make recommendations,” said Macnabb. “We’re a little bit hamstrung in what we can do.”
The anti-GMO crowd wants NORD to set a direction for agriculture that will benefit people.
The anti-GMO crowd says it knows that such a declaration would not be an enforceable law, but claims it would tell growers that GM crops are not welcome in the region, and would attract people interested in healthier agriculture instead of more corporate GM growers.
Macnabb suggests there may be an option for farmers to self-label, indicating GMO-free products for consumers.
“Then the people can choose,” said Macnabb.
Tranberg also indicated that both sides could ork together.
“Part of her message was we can work collaboratively,” said Macnabb.