Genetically modified organisms present a conundrum for Actives

Genetically modified organisms present a conundrum for Actives

The hot-button issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) provides a window onto the perspectives of one of the greenest of our consumer segments, the Actives. 

Actives are characterized by the synergy between their green attitudes and behaviors – they’re the most engaged Americans when it comes to sustainability, and the most likely group to see the world as an interrelated system.

And that’s what makes the genetically modified organism debate a difficult one for many Actives.

On the one hand, Actives are very demanding customers in the food category, looking for products that:

  • Contain no artificial colors/flavors, additives, preservatives, antibiotics or hormones
  • Are certified organic or contain 100% natural ingredients
  • Are locally-grown under Fair Trade conditions or certified by the Marine Stewardship Council

For them, food is meant to be pure and simple.

But according to our EcoPulse™ ’12 study, Actives are also less likely than average to say GMO-free is the best thing to read on a food package – despite the fact that they’re 65 percent more likely to say they’re avoiding genetically modified foods.

What’s the disconnect here?

It may boil down to their systemic worldview, as we identified last year in a joint project with John Marshall Roberts’ Worldview Thinking.

Systemic thinkers feel that balance must be restored to a world that’s at the tipping point of irreversible human and environmental damage – like the 925 million people worldwide who go hungry every day.

GMOs promise higher crop yields, expanded ranges for vital agricultural crops, improved nutrition, longer shelf life, and potential medicinal applications.

All this is obviously good and necessary – if we’re to solve the systemic problem of feeding everyone.

But is that the real problem? Experts say that we currently produce enough food to feed the world’s growing population – that it’s a complex problem of insufficient distribution, lack of arable land to grow food nearby, or lack of money to buy food.

So although GMOs claim to fix the problem, they might not be the solution.

Actives with a systemic worldview can see both sides of the raging debate.

Chances are, they’ll recognize the need to address the problem that GMOs can potentially provide – a world without hunger – but they’ll choose not to purchase or eat GMOs for themselves.

To this group, nature is a delicate system that’s already out of balance, and GMOs are simply another way we’re screwing up a perfect system.

To help Actives reconcile their feelings on the issue, tell them clearly on-pack that your product is GMO-free so they can say “yes” to your product (while still saying “no” to the larger issue of tinkering with nature’s fragile ecosystem).

It won’t be the leading reason they buy, but it will help tip the scales in your favor.


Posted on

May 1, 2013

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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