Farmer-leaders on the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (SDSRPC) visited France on a trade and educational mission this week. (You can read more about European markets here.) As part of the program, the group was able to a meet with a fellow farmer who farms near Reims in northern France.
Olivier Pechenet farms about 500 acres with his brother. Their main crops are sugar beats, barley and wheat. Not only did the group have the opportunity to tour Pechenet‘s farm and talk “shop,” comparing machinery and yields, but it was also a chance to discuss major issues impacting farmers across the globe like access to biotechnology.
Currently, France does not allow farmers to grow crops using biotech traits, and we learned there is significant public opposition to the technology. According to Pechenet, public acceptance is mostly due to a lack of understanding, and he would use GMO’s on his farm tomorrow if he could.
“Olivier Pechenet shared that French farmers experience a lot of regulations, especially when it comes to access to biotechnology” said Marc Reiner, farmer from Tripp, S.D., and SDSRPC director. “It is a pretty powerful message when you hear farmers on the countryside saying they know biotechnology is safe and they want to use it.”
Recently, the European Parliament ruled that each Member State in the European Union will be able to decide the use of GMOs in their individual countries. From the group’s visit with the French farmers, the farmers predict that within the next 10 years they may see France allow cultivation of biotechnology, once other Member State’s around them approve biotechnology.
“At the end of the day, we are not that much different. We all want to do what’s best for our farms, our families and our communities. This includes growing safe, healthy food and continually making improvements on our operations.”