Misconception about GM crops

J FulwoodThe West Australian
Lyndon Carlson
Camera IconLyndon Carlson Credit: The West Australian

The letters GMO should stand for genetically modified organics, according to the senior vice president of Farm Credit Canada.

Outspoken supporter of the use of biotechnology, Lyndon Carlson presented to the International Nuffield Triennial Conference in Nova Scotia last week, saying the organic movement should, in fact, be the best advocates for the use of GM technology.

Farm Credit Canada is the largest supplier of finance in the country.

"They are the group that want to use less pesticides, and they would like to see us use less pesticides, and both GM corn and GM canola allow for us to use way less pesticides," Mr Carlson said.

He called on farmers and their representative organisations to take over the campaign for promoting the benefits of genetic modification technology.

"I can't blame people for not wanting to eat food they don't see as safe, but how come we haven't done enough work to take that fear off the table," he said. Mr Carlson said people thought the chemical companies have another agenda so their message gets dismissed.

"For some reason the facts aren't telling the story, we need people to have a little more passion and get up and say I care up about my children as much as you do, so this becomes fear free," he said.

Mr Carlson also criticised the health claims of the organic movement, saying consumers needed to be more careful of organic food than conventionally produced food.

"E. coli is a frequent occurrence in organic food. I say to people if you feel you have to wash the food that was conventionally produced, then you really have to wash your organic food, because that is much more dangerous," he said.

"We have served literally trillions of meals containing GM corn and canola without incident, how many trillions of meals do we need to serve?"

But he said the message from the GM movement was not getting the necessary traction amongst consumers.

"We are not talking in good layman's language about what genetic modification means," Mr Carlson said.

"It is rapid-fire plant breeding and we've been plant breeding since the start of mankind and now we've found a way to expedite this process with genetic modification.

"Food is so precious to us, that when someone calls it frankenfood, well of course you get scared, that's very fearful language."

But Mr Carlson said the organic movement, while getting their message to the consumer, did not have the burden of facts.

"They just wing it," he said.

"That's why I say speak up and speak positively."

Canada is the largest producer of canola in the world, and according to the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, more than 52,000 farmers grow the oil seed across the country.

More than 75 per cent of total canola produced in Canada is exported to markets including the United States, Japan, Mexico and China.

Saskatchewan province in the central prairie region of Canada is the largest producer of canola, delivering $5 billion to their local economy.

Canada first began growing genetically modified canola in 1995, and with the addition of GM soybeans, Canadian farmers now grow 10.8 million hectares of genetically modified crops, according to global GM information website GMO Compass.

Looking globally, 18 million farmers use GM plants, and 174 million hectares around the world were planted to some form of genetically modified crop in 2013.

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