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Agricultural News

Borlaug Recommends Making the GMO Debate Personal to Consumers

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:51:16 CST

Borlaug Recommends Making the GMO Debate Personal to Consumers The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) continue to be debated. The dialogue has remained strong over the last year. Julie Borlaug is the granddaughter of the legendary Norman Borlaug and she serves as an Assistant Director of Partnerships for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. She has found some progress has been made in talking about the role of GMOs.

“I think we have done a lot of training this year in the ag industry with the private sector, with the farmers themselves, to make them realize we need to change our massaging,” Borlaug said. “We need to be more emotional, more personal and we have to engage with social media. So, I think hopefully we are going to start to see a shift.”

Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays interviewed Borlaug at the 2015 Commodity Classic going on Phoenix. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the full interview.

The perception of GMO’s though have gotten worse. Borlaug said she thinks the anti-GMO technology campaign has gotten savvier. At public speaking events, she often mentions how Whole Foods made more money than Monsanto did last year.

"They are just as market savvy," Borlaug said. "They want to produce for their stockholders, just like everyone else and I think you need to sit back and question that and realize they have gotten a niche, they are going to push it, but it’s all about dollar."

There is still a lot of anti-GMO backlash going on, but there is a positive aspect. Borlaug said there are more people speaking about the topic, but she thinks we need to get more people outside of agriculture to talk about GMOs, such as moms and the once GMO critic Mark Lynas, who has since come out in favor of the technology. She thinks the public is going to believe someone from outside agriculture, over someone from the seed industry or someone with a connection to farming.

In talking with consumers, Borlaug said the important detail is making that message personal and bringing the conversation down to something that is important to them. She often talks about how important oranges are to their children in providing orange juice each day. Then she gets into citrus greening and what’s going to happen if the U.S. losses its orange trees.

Oftentimes the conversation on the importance GMO seed gets into the ability to produce food that does not spoil such as GMO bananas or apples. Borlaug said with today’s throwaway society, food waste in America does not resonate with people. She prefers talking about the innate potato that doesn’t bruise, but more importantly when it is fried it does not have that carcinogenic that comes out when the potato is heated. She said that is something worth talking about and promoting.

"Because how can you not be for this, whether you are McDonald’s or the public, when you realize currently when they are frying that there is the carcinogenic element that comes out," Borlaug said.

Meanwhile, the federal GMO labeling debate continues. Without mandatory labeling, the public comes to believe agriculture is trying to hide something. In response, Borlaug said GMOs are approved through the Food and Drug Administration and when the industry is forced to label that gets the public to think there is something negative about the product. While others have come to believe the industry should agree to federal labeling and end this debate. If that happens, Borlaug said people are going to realize how much they have been eating products that are GMO and that they are perfectly healthy.

GMOs continue to be divisive in some countries around the world, but especially in the European Union. Borlaug said it’s really sad to see what Europe has done with their policy and they really dominate what Africa is doing. She has found in talking with African farmers, they want the technology and benefits of GMO seed. Borlaug thinks that message needs to be put out there to the public and why GMO’s are important to food production.



Ron Hays interviews Julie Borlaug at Commodity Classic
right-click to download mp3


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