On Tuesday, April 9th, a widespread day of protest will be held against – of all things troubling our country – GM alfalfa. Activists will be gathering at about 20 locales, including 12 in Ontario, to show their opposition to its pending arrival.
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a relatively benign group with agricultural ties to the National Farmers Union, is leading the charge. The network is working to make the public believe farmers neither want nor need Roundup Ready alfalfa. Check its website: you’ll find a nine-minute video with farmers who think it’s a scourge.
But is that a broadly held opinion? I’m sure some farmers don’t want it (i.e. some NFU members). But “farmers” are a diverse group. I’m sure some do want GM alfalfa, too.
If that’s true, their voices need to be heard Tuesday on the front lines, challenging the anti-GM protesters. The days of avoidance are over. Yes, farmers are busy farming, and they have spokespeople to answer their critics. And yes, if they speak out, the protest movement could well accuse them of being in agri-business’s pocket. And yes, for years, farmers have widely “voted” their approval of GM crops by using high-tech seed.
But despite all this, consumers want farmers to say what they think. And if farmers (or anyone) let activist groups speak for them in broad generalizations, that’s what the public may believe.
Scaremongers already have consumers looking over their shoulders and second-guessing the safety of our food supply (unless it’s “local” food, of course, which can do no wrong). These days, not many people actually know a farmer to ask them what’s true and what isn’t, or what farmers want or don’t want.
What do you consider true about GM alfalfa? People want to know. The same people whose opinions and demands already shape how you farm. It’s up to farmers to tell their story.