BC Fruit Grower Perspective: Public Opinion of Ag. Biotech

Following up on entries covering cross-pollination and the value Arctic apples can provide the apple industry, orchardist and agricultural scientist Dr. David Lane returns to share his views on what is influencing the controversy and public opinion of agricultural biotechnology and Arctic® apples: 

Innovation is the hallmark of human society. One of the fundamental qualities that define us is our constant search for improved productivity and quality of life. Advances in medicine help us live longer, computer science technologies help us communicate better and agricultural biotechnology can help us produce crops with increased value and benefits (not to mention more of it).

There are some who have a romantic view of the “vintage” way of doing things, or, the “natural” way. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, yet all too often members of these groups are unequivocally convinced that their way is the right way and promote their beliefs with such determination and vigor that new technologies are vilified unduly. Unfortunately, this has been the case with agricultural biotechnology, Arctic® apples included. Apple with question mark

Most individuals know or care little about biotechnology and simply trust regulatory bodies to ensure that all commercialized products undergo a proper science based review (which they do). However, for the remainder, public opinion polls have shown that around 10-15% of individuals support biotechnology, while around 10-15% oppose it. This may be surprising to some, which I believe is due to the extreme zeal in which opponents advertise their point of view using all means in their power. To me, this reinforces an unfortunate truth – it’s always easier to knock something down than to build it up!

An example of this is the resolution of the BC Fruit Growers Association (of which I am a member) to oppose Arctic apples. While a motion to adopt a “wait and see” approach nearly passed, the motion against Arctic apples that did end up going through but was only approved by about eight of the twenty five delegates (four were against, the rest abstained). Certainly not as resounding an endorsement as it seems on the surface.

It’s time to let the science speak for itself and the experts in the field all agree to the safety of approved biotech foods. Arctic apples will be no exception and I very much look forward to their approval so that both the apple industry and consumers can enjoy their benefits.

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