Food Industry Losing Ground on Frankenfoods Issue

Food Industry Losing Ground
on Frankenfoods Issue

Food industry loosing ground on GM: Expert
SOURCE: The Western Producers, Canada, by Barry Wilson
edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE: September 27, 2001

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NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. Ð Consumers' Association of Canada vice-
president Jenny Hillard was cited as telling industry leaders Sept. 17 the
potential advantages of biotechnology could be lost to the food industry if
consumers cannot soon be convinced of its benign benefits and that government
and the biotech industry have been losing the public credibility battle to the
critics, adding, "I don`t think we will lose the technology but we could
lose it in the food system. We lost irradiation because of public unease.
We could lose this."

Hillard was cited as saying in an interview the consumers' group takes a
product-by-product approach to GM technology but in the past year, general
public attitudes have hardened, adding, "A lot of people in the industry
have blinkers on and think they couldn't possibly lose something as good as
this. I think they are wrong. Some products already are out of the market.
Others like wheat may never make it. The momentum is with the critics." The
story says that some industry leaders who have invested billions of dollars
in food biotechnology development dismissed the warning as alarmist but
they acknowledged their credibility problem and offered a surprising

Lorne Hepworth, president of the Crop Protection Institute of Canada, was
quoted as saying, "I suggest the industry is in favour of increased
regulation, adding that it could help illustrate to consumers that their
health and safety concerns are being guarded by impartial regulators.
Hepworth did not detail the type of rules the industry would accept, but
there were suggestions that the regulatory and product approval system
become more open and understandable to consumers.

Also suggested were that an independent body be set up to allocate biotech
research money and that a strong and visible effort be made to increase
research into long-term effects of GM food production and consumption. The
story says that from the podium and in the hallways, there was bravado
about the benefits of the technology, signs of growing public acceptance
and the unreasonable arguments and tactics of the opponents, but there also
was an underlying sense of unease and siege at the meeting.

Former Monsanto Canada president Ray Mowling, now head of an industry
Council for Biotechnology Information was quoted as saying, "The food
system is under attack." Hepworth was cited as saying that public opinion
polls show growing numbers of people are aware of the technology, but many
of them remain concerned about the implications and the risks. He and other
speakers signaled that since consumers do not believe industry is a
credible promoter of the safety of GM food, the strategy will be to try to
convince respected third-party players to carry the ball. Dietitians,
educators, scientists, nutritionists and media leaders are among those who
will be targeted as potential "opinion leaders" to be convinced of the
safety and advantages of the technology.

Mark Winston, a professor in the department of biological sciences at Simon
Fraser University, was cited as saying a problem is that consumers see
companies and government in cahoots to promote the industry and to create a
"regulation lite" regime of controls. Even though there have been no
confirmed cases of sickness caused by eating GM food, people are skeptical
and see the industry as powerful and secretive, he said. Opposition to
mandatory labelling suggests to many the industry has something to hide. He
said the industry should publicly campaign for tougher government
regulations and control as a way to show the public it has nothing to hide.

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