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A New Study Says GMOs are Safe – So Why Don’t Some Consumers Buy It?

“You have got to be kidding me. Of course they are harmful and I think most people are smart enough to know the truth.” — Susan

“Not buying this. These corporate entities are so huge and tied to the government they could buy any ‘facts’ they want.” — Mike

“This is a complete turnaround…sounds fishy, very fishy…like this result was ‘arranged.'” — Jerry

green corn field and blue sky

It’s a skepticism that’s quite prevalent in reader comments following recent articles that reveal findings from a new report by the influential National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that genetically modified (GM) foods are safe.

In an extensive multi-year analysis, more than 50 scientists, researchers and agricultural and industry experts examined almost 900 research publications and data covering the 20 years since GM crops were first introduced to reach its conclusions.

The report confirms what scientists have been saying for years, but clearly, some consumers still don’t buy it. Why? Because, despite all of the science, consumers aren’t getting answers to their most important questions.

Too often, those in food, agriculture and the scientific community resort to: “If I give consumers information — the science — they’ll come to my side. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just give them more science.” But that approach misses the mark.

Science tells us that we can create, grow or build something. But according to consumer trust research from The Center for Food Integrity, consumers aren’t asking if we can, they’re asking if we should. Can and should are two entirely different questions.

The question they’re asking — “Should we?” — is an ethical one that can only be answered by demonstrating the values behind the technology — the greater good. For example, how does GM technology benefit people, animals and the planet?

Ethical answers address the “why we’re doing this,” not the “what” and “how.”

That certainly doesn’t mean we discount science. On the contrary. The “what” and “how” are vital.

But when shared values are established first, people are more likely to trust you and are more willing to consider scientific and technical information on an issue as personal as the food they feed their families — and that leads to informed decision making. In fact, our research shows that communicating with values is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply sharing facts.

Skepticism in science and technology won’t change — and it shouldn’t. It’s healthy skepticism that leads to important dialogue. But the approach to communicating science and technology needs to evolve to ensure that the public is forming opinions based on sound information. Connecting with and communicating values makes the scientific information more relevant and meaningful.