Farmers learn how to better defend pesticides, GM use

KAP president Doug Chorney says the ‘Confident Conversations’ workshop 
gives producers the tools to counter misinformation

Whether it’s A&W’s no-added-hormones burger or banning lawn herbicides, it seems the public is increasingly suspicious of chemicals in their food.

To help train farmers to counter those fears CropLife Canada, which represents pesticide and genetically modified crop makers and the Grain Growers of Canada, held a workshop in Calgary Dec. 1. Keystone Agricultural Producers’ president Doug Chorney participated and was so impressed he wants the rest of KAP’s executive to attend the workshop called “Confident Conversations.”

“It was an interesting experience to go through,” he said.

“I think it’s good for farmers who want to talk about what they do on their farms.”

The four-hour workshop involved role playing and different scenarios a farmer might encounter, Chorney said.

“The purpose of the workshop is just to help you prepare better for that,” he said. “There’s no silver bullet, obviously. It’s just a building block.”

Farmers are taught how to defend their use of pesticides and GM crops in a factual, but sensitive way, trying to avoid offending people who oppose their use, he said.

Chorney agrees the customer is always right. If a consumer doesn’t want food produced by “mainstream agriculture” he or she can buy organic.

“What’s hurtful is being led down a path that suggests there’s something wrong with all the food they’re buying currently,” he said.

Many people say they want organic food, but few people buy it because of the higher cost, he said.

“Organic products have to come at a higher cost all the time,” Chorney said. “We’re really taking food out of people’s mouths if we deprive them of regular non-organic food because a lot of people would never be able to afford to eat properly.”

According to Chorney the Manitoba government’s planned ban of “cosmetic” herbicides reinforces the notion that pesticides, even when used properly, are harmful. If it’s too dangerous to spray dandelions in their lawn how can it be safe on their food?

Chorney said he’s disappointed the Manitoba government is endorsing a new process to certify the sustainability of Manitoba-grown food so government institutions can then buy it.

“I have a problem with that,” he said. “When policy-makers somehow suggest that the mainstream food supply is unsafe and they have to do some other level of scrutiny beyond what we’ve got in place this is an example of the thin edge of the wedge.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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