Viewpoint: Mandatory gene-edited food labels would ease consumer fear of CRISPR

consumer

The food industry’s last venture into genetic engineering, more than 30 years ago, was a commercial success for agriculture …. But it also became a communications disaster over the years when consumers started to fear what was happening to their food, without knowing about genetic engineering.

“Frankenfoods” was one well-used label to describe GMOs and reflects how misunderstood the technology was. The biotechnology sector never bothered connecting with the public as it was promoting its newly crafted products to farmers.

[T]he biotechnology industry is now mindful of how social licensing is critical to the nature of its business …. Most Canadians know of the existence of GMOs but cannot accurately explain what they are. In order to allow Canadians to befriend the science, mandatory labeling for genetically modified and edited content would be a logical starting point.

Related article:  UK biotech firm poised to test disease-resistant CRISPR bananas and coffee in South America

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Gene-edited crops can help farmers produce safe and affordable food, feed, fibres, and energy in the 21st century, but the technology needs to make a legitimate case to consumers themselves. Given the GMO communications fiasco we have all witnessed over the last 30 years, let’s hope we can learn from past mistakes by making sure consumers are on board with this.

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