While farmers around the world – more than 18 million farmers in 27 countries – rely on the solutions that biotechnology helps to provide, the discussion around GMOs in food production has intensified.
Much of the concern has been generated by misinformation online and across social media. For over a decade, myths about our members and our products were perpetuated. Our voice was not there, and consumers’ questions went unanswered. Without easy access to the facts, calls for mandatory labeling of food made with GM ingredients and bans on growing GM crops have grown louder. In 2014 we are facing anti-biotech proposals in more than 30 states and consumer confidence in the safety of our food supply has been negatively impacted.
We had to become part of the conversation. In July 2013, members of the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) – BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta –launched GMO Answers to create an open, transparent conversation about GMOs.
The hallmark of the GMO Answers program is a website with a public Q&A. We invite consumers to ask us anything. And they have – more than 700 questions. A community of independent experts from farmers to healthcare providers to academic scientists has volunteered to answer questions and tell their stories. If one of our member companies is asked a question, an employee with related expertise responds. No matter which expert engages, his or her name and photo accompanies the answer.
We’re succeeding in creating a central place where consumers hang out, engage and get the information they are seeking either through the Q&A or other pages on our site. And with Facebook and Twitter as top drivers of site traffic, we’ve developed a strong social media presence. We’ve expanded the dialogue, crisscrossing the country to speak with interested groups, and commissioning a survey (in December 2013) of consumers who may not have heard about GMO Answers to identify (and answer) their Top Ten Questions.
The top two questions dealt with health – whether GMO’s contribute to increased cancer risk or the development of allergies. Dr Kevin Folta, University of Florida, and Registered Dietitian, Lisa Katic provided the answers.
There isn’t any evidence linking the consumption of GMOs to any health malady, including cancer and allergies. Assertions to the contrary have been refuted by the mainstream scientific community. In fact, global authoritative bodies, including the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Academy of Science, and here at home, the National Academy of Science and the American Medical Association, have determined GMOs to be as safe as their non GMO counterparts. Global regulatory authorities, including in the EU, agree. Moreover, just last year, Italian researchers evaluated the findings of nearly 1,800 scientific studies on GMOs, both those making health claims and those confirming GMO safety. They too concluded there was no evidence to support a health concern related to GMOs.
Other Top Ten questions deal with environmental impacts of GMO crops, pesticide use, coexistence with organic crops and, of course, whether or not food containing GMOs should be labeled. Through GMO Answers, these questions are answered, with facts not fear.
GMO Answers’ goal is to bring clarity to the confusion. We believe in our technology, and are committed to a transparent and open dialogue. We’re helping to bring balance to media reports and changing the tone of the coverage. We’re encouraging supporters (old and new) to speak out and empowering consumers to make up their own minds about GMOs with facts in hand. We are changing the conversation on GMOs.