Biotech messages fail to reach an apathetic public

MILWAUKEE: Though the PR battle over bioengineered foods is far from over, biotech backers are coming up short in crafting messages that matter to consumers, a study recently released by Philip Morris and the American Farm Bureau Federation has concluded.

MILWAUKEE: Though the PR battle over bioengineered foods is far from over, biotech backers are coming up short in crafting messages that matter to consumers, a study recently released by Philip Morris and the American Farm Bureau Federation has concluded.

MILWAUKEE: Though the PR battle over bioengineered foods is far

from over, biotech backers are coming up short in crafting messages that

matter to consumers, a study recently released by Philip Morris and the

American Farm Bureau Federation has concluded.



The study sends a clear message to the food industry: both sides of the

bioengineered food debate need to be developed further through the use

of PR.



Part of the problem, it was revealed, is that Americans are largely

uninformed.



Forty-one percent of consumers don’t know about either the benefits or

drawbacks of bioengineered foods, outweighing the 37% who have heard

about the benefits and the 17% who are aware of the drawbacks.



Pesticides, however, continue to loom large on consumers’ agendas.

Seventy-three percent of respondents said they would support the use of

biotech if it reduced pesticide use. Also, 74% either mostly agreed or

strongly agreed with the statement ’any price is worth knowing that the

food has no pesticides or chemicals.’



Philip Morris, which owns food giant Kraft as well as Miller Brewing,

commissioned the study to determine what farmers and consumers thought

about key food issues as well as to find out if there are perception

gaps between the two groups. The survey was conducted by Roper Starch

Worldwide and consisted of interviews with 1,002 consumers and 704

farmers.



’Food safety is a bigger concern to consumers than farmers think,’ said

Linda Wenck, president of the Milwaukee office of Morgan & Myers (which

worked on the survey for Philip Morris). She pointed to the study’s

finding that 61% of consumers worry about food safety. Asked what they

believe consumers think, however, a majority of farmers said that

consumers worry only a little or not at all about food safety.



Wenck speculated that farmers may not have a handle on consumer opinions

because they’re too close to the subject. Additionally, she added, they

may be incorrectly assuming that consumers are aware of the steps taken

to ensure the safety of crops.



However, safety-conscious, consumers aren’t necessarily opposed to the

use of new technologies by farmers. ’Everyone’s been assuming that

consumers hate biotech, and they don’t,’ Wenck said.



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