Board hears from industry

The region’s agricultural advisory committee managed to hear the ‘other side’ of the GMO debate Wednesday

Despite opponents to the idea, the region’s agricultural advisory committee managed to hear the ‘other side’ of the GMO debate Wednesday.

The Regional Agricultural Advisory Committee (RAAC) invited CropLife western division vice president Janice Tranberg to share the industry side of the debate.

“Our role is to listen to both sides,” said Mike Macnabb, Area C director, as RAAC has already heard from the anti-GMO crowd through both presentations, letters, rallies and more.

Some 150 GMO opponents showed up to the meeting, some opposed to the idea that RAAC was letting CropLife make a presentation.

“(Some) people do not believe that it is the right of the RAAC to invite a biased industry to help them set the direction of the region,” said Bee SAFE co-founder Huguette Allen, an opponent to GMO.

Allen instead suggests the committee should invite independent scientists or doctors or economic advisors to speak on the subject.

But Macnabb says the committee needed to hear the industry side to the debate. And Tranberg made the case for GMO (or biotech) products, which have been around for 25 years.

Despite concerns about the products, Tranberg said more than two decades of tests have shown these crops to be safe for people, animals and the environment. Health Canada has also declared that biotech crops are just as safe as non-biotech crops.

Noting the advantages of GMO, Tranberg pointed out that they can stand up against the current and future growing challenges.

“As the population grows and climate changes, we will be struggling to find plants that can adapt to drought or flood conditions,” said Macnabb.

“So there are some advantages.”

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.”

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 work together.

“Part of her message was we can work collaboratively,” said Macnabb.