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Thursday, November 26 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
Addressing Concerns Over GMOs - Striking the Right Balance / Répondre aux préoccupations sur les OGM – Trouver le juste équilibre

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Organized by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

The global population is on track to reach 9 billion people by 2050. At the same time, climate change and a growing middle class are forcing the worlds’ farmers to grow more food on limited arable land. Biotechnology already plays a key role in modern agriculture. As our increased understanding of the technology allows us to boost food production and develop a limitless range of functional and value-added applications – and the tools become cheaper and more accessible – ag biotech will become increasingly important in tackling food security and malnutrition.

Yet 20 years after they were first commercialized, genetically modified (GM) foods remain a contentious issue in the global food system. The discord sown by the lack of a conciliatory approach is alienating a significant segment of the population and threatens to limit farmers’ access to safe technologies that can improve their incomes, provide sustainable solutions to environmental challenges, and help feed the world. In Canada, our approach to GM foods is centred on a regulatory system that focuses on strict, science-based safety criteria and leaves commercialization decisions to private industry. While this approach upholds health and safety and fosters an innovation-friendly business climate, we are faced with the absence of any clear system to address the range of socioeconomic impacts GM foods invariably have on stakeholders throughout the value chain. Fearmongering and baseless claims over the dangers of GMOs aside, growers, handlers, processors, retailers, and consumers all have legitimate concerns over the place of biotechnology in our food system, and our continued failure to address these issues has negative repercussions for both users and non-users of ag biotech. Calls for the government to intervene and “manage” these issues by moving away from a purely science-based approach and incorporating market-based considerations into the regulatory system invoke a whole range of policy challenges and will not provide a solution. If we are to develop a holistic and inclusive approach to biotechnology for the 21st century, all affected parties need to be a part of the conversation.

Canada is uniquely positioned to take the lead in this regard and set an example for the world –our vibrant biotech and organic sectors have been able to grow in tandem with each other, industry and grassroots organizations are collaborating to respond to evolving consumer demands, we have a robust science policy community, and Canadian citizens are eager to engage with their food system. We invite you to join us for this discussion that will bring together collaborative and forward-thinking experts to explore what roles government, industry, academia, and civil society groups can play in effectively managing the use of biotechnology to answer some of the major global challenges of our time.


avatar for Sylvain Charlebois

Sylvain Charlebois

College of Business and Economics, University of Guelph
Sylvain Charlebois has authored nearly 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals, professional publications, and conference proceedings in food Science and management. He is known for being the lead author of many reports which compare global food safety and traceability systems... Read More →

avatar for Andrew Goldstein

Andrew Goldstein

Director General of Policy, Planning, and Integration, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada
Andrew Goldstein is currently Director General, Policy Planning and Integration in the Strategic Policy Branch at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC), where he is responsible for leading the policy development of a number of different files, including Growing Forward 2. Prior... Read More →
avatar for Muffy Koch

Muffy Koch

Biotech Regulatory Affairs Manager,, Simplot Plant Sciences
Muffy Koch was born in South Africa and trained in Botany and Microbiology. Her research career started at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) where she worked with the team to first genetically modify plants in South Africa and where she set up the first cereal... Read More →
avatar for Elizabeth Nielsen

Elizabeth Nielsen

Board of the Consumers Council of Canada and the Consumer Policy Committee of ISO
Dr. Nielsen is a member of the Board of the Consumers Council of Canada and the Consumer Policy Committee of ISO. She has extensive experience working with and representing consumers in the development of standards, legislation, regulations and policies; chairing meetings among... Read More →
avatar for Mike Peterson

Mike Peterson

Global Traits Lead, Forage Genetics International
Mike Peterson is currently the Lead for Global Traits at Forage Genetics International, a breeder and worldwide marketer of alfalfa seed, based in Nampa, ID. Prior to this responsibility, Mike was Senior Breeder (7 years), Research Director (10 years) and then Brand Manager (13 years... Read More →
avatar for Lucy Sharratt

Lucy Sharratt

Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
Lucy Sharratt works in Ottawa as the Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, also known as CBAN. CBAN is a campaign coalition of 17 organizations including farmer associations, environmental groups and international development organizations, all of which have various... Read More →

Thursday November 26, 2015 10:30am - 12:00pm EST
Joliet-Frontenac (level C)

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