Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran welcomes delegates to the 127th annual BCFGA convention in the city Friday

Annual meeting of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association opens in Kelowna

The 127th annual BCFGA convention goes this weekend with issues such as GMO apples and the new replant program at the top of the agenda.

The 127th annual B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association convention licked off in Kelowna Friday and one of the first issues talked about was the future of the genetically-modified Arctic Apple.

While one of the resolutions up for debate this weekend at the convention being call on government to de-register the Arctic immediately, the association also wants to have a moratorium placed on all future GMO tree fruits pending more research, studies into trade and impact on the consumer.

On Friday, BCFGA delegate Amarjit Lalli told the convention he believed trying to have the Acrtic de-registered was a battle “we’re not going to win.”

“But we will win the public perception battle,” said Lalli.

He added while it generally takes about five years to get production of a new apple up and running, the association has lost one year by not doing anything in 2015.

“We now have four years to get our act together,” he said.

BCFGA general manger Glen Lucas revealed the association did talk to a lawyer last year before the Arctic was registered, wanting an injunction to stop that from happening but was unsuccessful.

He said the lawyer told association representatives that such a move would fail because harm had to be shown to have taken place as a result of the registering and, as the Acrtic Apple was not on the market yet, that could not be shown.

Lalli said he supports the association’s desire to see proper labelling identifying genetically-modified fruit.

The issue of GMO fruit is just one of many up for discussion at the convention this year. Other issues include a change to the insurance program that covers cherries damages as a result of weather, deer fencing to protect orchards and the new provincial replant program.

On Friday delegates were told about the replant program, which went into effect in 2015.It’s a $8.4 million plan over seven years to help growers plant new varieties.

Delegates were told there were 127 applications last year 94 of the 97 eligible submissions were funded. The new plantings account for 200 acres of orchard.

But some delegates raised concerns that not all farmers who replant will be funded under the program and it may need more money.

President Fred Steele said the BCFGA was successful in moving money around in the first year and hoped to see that continue to make sure all eligible applicants would be funded.

On Saturday at the convention, Steele will be challenged for a second straight time by grower Jeet Dukhia  for the BCFGA’s top executive position.

In welcoming the delegates, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran praised the tree fruit industry, saying it was both very important and extremely relevant to his city.

Basran noted that 43 per cent of the city’s land is currently in the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve, meaning it is protected from development. Much of that land is still orchard.

The BCFGA represents 800 growers from up and down the valley and while the tree fruit industry here accounts for $130 million is wholesale sales, it also generates $900 million in economic activity.

The industry directly accounts for 1,500 person years of employment annually here, added Basran.