Recently we attended a family wedding and some of the guests were good friends of ours. He works for Macquarie Group and she has worked many years in media/marketing with companies such as Xero and organisations like the Crusaders. Bottom line is they are smart people.
They are relatively health conscious and knowing my profession they were very earnest in their need to discuss produce in NZ. They thought they were eating a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit at the core of their meals and snacks. However, they were very concerned that what if what they thought was healthy was in fact not? They were particularly concerned if any of the produce contained GMO’s and were under the impression that all produce was heavily sprayed unless organic.
GMO’s and the use of agrichemicals on our produce is a discussion I find commonly in amongst our friends and family and others who are not involved in the industry, and it is probably the single biggest question I am asked once people know I sell vegetable seed as a career.
In our Summer edition my editorial spoke of the need for our industry and the companies within to be better at telling our story, and I think this really lies at the heart of the issues we have with these common misconceptions of our industry.
I shouldn’t be surprised fielding these questions after 17 years in the industry, but I am still often left perplexed when people ask me if our produce is genetically modified. I normally stare incredulously at the person before responding “but it is prohibited to import GMO into NZ” (note: I am generalising here, best not to get into EPA approvals etc…). Living and breathing seed and import requirements as I do every day I have wrongly assumed that this very clear piece of information is well known by all of the New Zealand public when in fact the case is very few.
I note back in February, Countdown launched into the foray of featuring some of their suppliers, our customers with their produce in an attempt to engage the consumer in feeling closer to the source of their food. Whilst this is great and we do have a good looking array of growers to showcase – perhaps they and the industry would be better focusing on how the produce is grown? It is GMO free, often grown as part of an IPM program, there are many more tools available to grower’s than just chemical for managing their crops.
Like many of the primary industries under the spotlight for their environmental practices currently, we do have to be sure that if we are going to tell our story and the good things we are all doing that we can in fact back it up.