Last week a Japanese delegation was in North Dakota, voicing strong opposition to biotech wheat. For the next two weeks, an America Farm Bureau Federation is heading up a tour in China and Japan, hoping to communicate the facts about agricultural biotechnology.
Speaking Tuesday via teleconference from Osaka, Japan, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman told U.S. reporters the Farm Bureau is making headway while meeting with government officials, researchers and consumer groups to discuss the environmental and production benefits and safety of biotechnology.
Stallman says Chinaâ€™s ability to provide food to its 1.3 billion population makes the production advantages of biotechnology a substantial issue for the country. Stallman equated the country to being on a "middle ground," between skepticism fueled by misunderstanding and misinformation, and a great interest in learning how to safely feed its citizens. China already grows Bt cotton, which has reduced its insecticide use by more than 60%.
"Japan is similar to the European Union attitude," says Stallman. "The countryâ€™s more sophisticated consumers are concerned about food safety and quality. But, Japan also has a lack of understanding about biotechnology, so we are focusing our efforts on educating about the technologyâ€™s environmental benefits."
According to Stallman, Japanese consumer groups do not have a clear understanding of biotechnology. "There was a sense that Japanâ€™s consumers need to be better informed and more connected to the farmer and food production," says Stallman. "They didnâ€™t understand what biotech really is, and they are basing their ideas on misinformation from groups opposing biotech on a philosophical basis."
"Farm Bureauâ€™s goal is to create an environment conducive to promoting U.S. biotech, while securing a future for the technology, whether it be grown in Japan, China or the United States," concludes Stallman, emphasizing that biotech acceptance would create more markets for U.S. farm exports.
The Farm Bureau delegation includes Stallman and state Farm Bureau presidents Steve Kouplen, Oklahoma; Don Villwock, Indiana; and Barry Bushue, Oregon.