GMO Answers: A listening ear for troubled consumers

01/13/2014 05:27:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstI was just trying to call up regulations.gov for the latest eye-popping statistics on Arctic apple comments, but alas, it was not to be. I was met with this message:

“We experienced temporary technical difficulties and are working to restore full operations as soon as possible. Please check the site periodically for availability. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”

 

Well, we have become spoiled. We expect the entire sum of knowledge to be at our fingertips, and when it is not, we are flummoxed. At least we don’t have to go to Washington. D.C. to inspect what comments have been submitted on this and other hot button topics, am I right?Just don’t make it a habit of going dark, feds.

 On the topic of GMOs, I was reading a release from the Farm Bureau Federation about a new website that answers consumer questions about GMOs.

From the release, former Western Growers DC staffer Cathleen Enright informs attendees of the Farm Bureau’s convention about the work of the Biotechnology Industry Organization:

Despite the head start biotechnology opponents have, there’s still plenty of opportunity for farmers, ranchers and the biotechnology industry to change the conversation about genetically modified organisms, Dr. Cathleen Enright told attendees at a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention. The key to making that change happen is an open and transparent dialogue with consumers, according to Enright, Biotechnology Industry Organization executive vice president, food and agriculture.

While the adoption of GM crops is on the rise around the world, so is consumer opposition in the U.S. “More and more organizations are working to create fear, attack agriculture and malign biotechnology companies,” Enright said. And if the mandatory ballot labeling activity in more than 30 states in 2013 is any indication, the anti-GMO message is getting through. There are three components common to all these legislative efforts and ballot initiatives: they are framed as consumers’ “right to know;” they exempted alcohol, dairy, meat and restaurant food; and they would allow lawsuits based on asserted non-compliance.

 “They’re trying to change market conditions through legislation. Their goal is to convince you to buy something else,” Enright said. Opposing these efforts on a state-by-state basis is unsustainable and untenable, she added. Anti-GMO groups were among the first to use social media to establish their message and rally people around their cause, but biotech supporters are catching up quickly. With research showing that people who have unfavorable opinions about GMOs base their purchasing decisions on other factors, like price, there is clearly an opening for farmers, ranchers and other biotech proponents, Enright said.


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