Gene Editing: Building Consumer Trust

Emerging gene-editing technology can increase the nutrition of foods, help foods stay fresh longer, reduce plant and animal diseases and minimize environmental impact. Despite these benefits to consumers, farmers, and the environment, this technology is being met with mixed reactions from consumers. Most consumers simply do not have enough information or understanding to have an informed view of gene-editing.

Consumers have the right to safe and nutritional food and the right to accurate information about what they eat. Farm Foundation partnered with FMI, the Food Industry Association, American Seed Trade Association, and American Farm Bureau Federation to examine U.S. consumer beliefs, awareness and understanding of gene-editing and their willingness to pay for gene-edited foods. The survey results indicate that, when information about benefits is provided before the consumer chooses, there is more willingness to purchase gene-edited products.

Farm Foundation then hosted a forum at the National Press Club to share these survey results and explore what the findings mean for various sectors of the ag industry. Along with other experts, two farmers shared their excitement at how this technology can help them produce a better product in more environmentally sound ways. One explained, “This technology makes it easier to collect and use data, to produce better crops with better yields; it makes it easier for farmers to stay in business. Gene-editing offers reliability; if gene-editing can help protect against insects, mildew, and weather damage, it will change the way farmers do business.”

How to overcome consumer reluctance? Recognizing the potential bewilderment of shoppers when faced with food labels such as organic, GMO (now “bioengineered”), non-GMO, fresh, natural, and more, we in the food industry must build trust among consumers by answering their questions clearly and accurately. With the future of gene-editing technology dependent upon consumer understanding and support, Farm Foundation encourages ongoing objective dialogue in which consumer concerns and questions are answered and consumers are made aware of benefits. Consumer trust and understanding are key.

Shari Rogge-Fidler, President & CEO, Farm Foundation