"We lost irradiation because of public unease. We could lose this... The momentum is with the critics." - Consumers' Association of Canada vice-president Jenny Hillard
CAC is pro-GM and a recipient of both Monsanto and Canadian government money and has opposed even labelling of GM foods.
FOOD INDUSTRY LOSING GROUND ON GM: EXPERT
September 27, 2001
The Western Producers
Barry Wilson [via Agnet]
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -- Consumers' Association of Canada vice-president Jenny Hillard was cited as telling industry leaders Sept. 17the 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 said 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 solution.
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.