THIS WEEK'S BIGPITCH: How can PR help the biotech industry overcome consumer resistance to genetically altered food?

Few aspects of our daily life are capable of generating a more primal response than real or perceived threats to our food supply.

Chris Spring, Spring, O'Brien, New York

Few aspects of our daily life are capable of generating a more primal response than real or perceived threats to our food supply. For the most part, the FDA has done a credible regulatory job and enjoys a reasonably good public image, particularly when compared to its counterparts overseas.

The biotech industry, however, has yet to lift the veil of mystery surrounding the subject of genetically modified foods. Any PR campaign on its behalf must clearly delineate the risk-benefit ratio. As it develops, the industry might enlist celebrities?Bugs Bunny munching on a 60-foot-long carrot should get a few hits! But public health issues must be dealt with head-on, lest the industry discredit itself in a 'smoke and mirrors' mist before it can even don the fog lights.

Cari Rudd, Fenton Communications, Washington, DC

The most important thing for the biotech industry to recognize is that consumers are right to be skeptical. The science behind this emerging industry is in its infancy. The public is in the dark and the industry should realize the value in promoting consumer labeling and responsible limits on the application of this technology until there are more answers.

Paul Sturiale, Witherspoon Advertising/Public Relations, Fort Worth

The industry needs to position the foods in terms of consumer benefit. If consumers recognize how genetically modified foods can improve their life, health, or situation, they'll recognize the value of these foods.

The key to their acceptance lies in the public's recognition of the value they hold, not necessarily their makeup. The industry needs to pool its resources to fund a national consumer education program that gives people the education they need to make an intelligent decision.

Kathy Bloomgarden, Ruder Finn, New York

In considering public attitudes toward genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the most important factor is trust- in science and in the regulatory agencies which insure food safety. It is critical that people understand that GMO food has clear benefits that are relevant to each of us. This area of scientific inquiry will not just help farmers and companies introducing new products, but will give us foods with nutrients which can improve our health and well-being. Communications activities must focus on the science and the factual information about GMOs in language that is accessible to laypeople.

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