Amid conflicting “science” and strong emotions about GMOs, food companies may want to get proactive

Amid conflicting “science” and strong emotions about GMOs, food companies may want to get proactive

Even as genetically modified foods play a larger role in world agriculture, American consumers are avoiding them.

In our Eco Pulse™ 2013 survey, we asked, “Which are the best descriptions to read on a food product package?”

The top six responses were the same as last year, with decreases in selections of “no artificial flavors, colors, additives or preservatives” and “100% natural.”

What increased significantly this year were the respondents who chose “not genetically engineered/modified” (up 6 percentage points to 20 percent).

The population actively trying to avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs) is growing and has almost reached 25 percent, even as lack of labeling requirements makes this preference challenging.

Whole Foods’ recent decision to label all GMOs by 2018 will likely accelerate the issue. A recent national bill requiring GMO labeling is pending in Congress, and 37 food labeling bills have been introduced in 21 states in 2013.

The trouble is, much like climate change, this is a complicated issue with conflicting “science” that generates a strong emotional response. And while it’s impossible to calm fears with “just the facts,” the food industry could be much more proactive. Searching for “GMOs” on many company websites yields little to no information. The silence is deafening.

It may be time for food companies to go on the offensive – perhaps with a collaborative communications initiative sponsored by manufacturers and pro-GMO groups like the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization.

A proactive campaign that frames biotechnology as a necessary way to address world hunger could spur a positive emotional response to help counter the increasingly negative one that seems to be prevailing.

The desire for labeling, however, is not going away. It’s likely time for the packaged food industry to begin the difficult task of sorting out produce and grain sourcing the way the meat industry is developing an infrastructure to track chicken, pork and beef from grower to table.

Skills

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Posted on

July 19, 2013

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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