By Gary Joiner
Don’t confuse public opinion with public understanding.
This is especially evident when it comes to food and science.
Recent polls show that 80 percent or more of consumers support labeling GMOs. It’s likely most know little about the issue.
Case in point. A survey conducted in January on food preferences by Jayson Lusk of Oklahoma State University asked more than 1,000 Americans about an absurd hypothetical policy mandating labels for foods containing DNA. Eighty percent supported the idea, he said.
It gets worse. A follow-up by Lusk in February asked another 1,000 people whether they believe the statement “all vegetables contain DNA” was true or false. More than half, 52 percent, said “false,” according to Lusk. The correct answer, of course, is “true.”
The late former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts.”
The reality of public understanding is frustrating. It’s easy to throw up your hands and walk away. Why even try?
Because agriculture must. Farmers and ranchers have tremendous credibility with the public. They are trusted. And rightfully so. They’ve been building on that trust for generations.
There is a vacuum of information about agriculture and food systems in our country. If this vacuum is not filled by those who grow our food and fiber, then someone else will step in and appoint themselves as the trusted source of facts. The needle of public opinion will be pushed further away from the truth.
It’s not an outcome that farmers and ranchers can support.