I just read Elaine Watson’s lengthy interview on FoodNavigator-USA with Cathy Enright, the executive vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)—the trade organization for producers of GMO foods.
If you have any doubts about why the agbiotech industry has failed “to win hearts and minds about the merits of genetically engineered ingredients,” read this interview.
Ms. Enright’s comments are remarkable for their tone-deafness to the issues that so trouble ordinary people about GMO foods.
Here, for example, are few selected quotes from the interview:
- Consumers are not worried about biotechnology in other areas of their lives…Take human insulin [injected by millions of diabetics every day], which is genetically engineered, or some cancer drugs. But when it comes to food, people are making emotional not factual arguments.
- The food industry has let the debate be hijacked by a small group of well-organized and media-savvy advocacy groups with connections to the natural and organic industry, which has a vested interest in this debate.
- There has been a sophisticated and coordinated attempt to create a sense of alarm about foods we have been consuming safely for decades.
- We have a climate in the US now that is incredibly unfriendly to food biotechnology. Yet we need to dramatically increase the protein supply if we are going to feed everyone by 2050.
- If the anti-biotech lobby gets its way, these new products (plus a host of others…) will be rejected by consumers before they even get to market.
- We are not saying that people don’t have the right to know what’s in their food, but mandatory GMO labeling ‘prominently displayed’, as is proposed, is not informing people, it’s scaring people. It’s saying these foods are different, unhealthy or unsafe, and that is just not true.
One more time: Whether or not GMO foods are the same as other foods, healthy, or safe, there are plenty of reasons for concerns about them, many of them quite rational. The most obvious is transparency.
It’s time BIO recognized that it will never win the hearts and mind of the public until it labels GMO foods as such.
The sooner the industry does that, the sooner the conversation about the merits of GMO foods can begin.
Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University.