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The sustainability of the world’s food supply has long been a cause for concern. This has been the driving force behind modifying or splicing genes to come up with better yielding crops and livestock. The technology has been around for more than 20 years but the idea of eating “test-tube” or “lab-grown” food still leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), an industry-funded group based in Kansas City, Missouri, is pushing the bold concept of “authentic transparency”. This move will help generate not only greater awareness, but also acceptance of genetic modification technology.

Traditionally, public trust of our food and the people who grow it have been taken for granted”

Traditionally, public trust of our food and the people who grow it have been taken for granted. Family farms and all they represent are deeply rooted in our culture. As the food system has become more integrated, with larger farms and companies producing food, the public wonders whether the food system is still worthy of their trust,” CFI’s CEO, Charlie Arnot, wrote in Genetic Literacy Project.org, that dives into food integrity and where our food comes from.

Industries must reach out to the public and become transparent about developments and advancements in the field to minimize resistance and outright rejection. The CFI had earlier conducted focus group research with the intention of convincing the public that GMOs have been around for 20 years and bring no ill-effects on the safety and health of people who consume it.

The results, however, were far from ideal. Arnot cited one participant’s reply: “This is beyond scary to me. I feel like I’ve been deceived. The fact that we’ve been eating this stuff [for decades] … why weren’t they providing more information all along about what I’m eating?”.

GMO crops and food integrity
Many people do not realize that GM crops have been around for decades.

Authentic transparency in genetic modification technology would “help reduce the fear of the unknown and create a platform for building trust,” the article read.

Apart from publishing articles and other informational materials, CFI noted that cans and packages should also be properly labeled.

“Our goal should not be to win a scientific or social argument, but to find more meaningful and relevant methods to introduce science in a way that encourages thoughtful consideration and informed decision making,” Arnot stressed.

The field has enjoyed a lot of success over the decades. Food technology has not improved crops and livestock but also worked on refrigeration, creating drought-tolerant hybrids, pasteurization and disease-resistant variants of important crops.  Through innovation and technology, humans are able to meet the need of providing safe and nourishing food to the world’s growing population.

In London, for example, pioneering tech forms are pushing to meet the growing need for more food while utilizing the least amount of resources. Scientists are developing grains which are resistant to drought as well as higher-yielding. The population’s demand for bread, vegetables, dairy and protein are growing exponentially and there aren’t enough resources to sustain the demand on a “natural” level.

“Consumer concern and skepticism about food production are understandable” 

Genetic modification technology allows scientists to engineer crops as well as control or alter certain variables that affect their growth. For example, farmers are now able to grow grains and vegetables which before only grew at certain seasons.

“Consumer concern and skepticism about food production are understandable. The consolidation, integration and application of technology that make food safe, available and affordable also prompt concerns about whether science benefits society or only those who control it as well as skepticism about the motivation of those in food and agriculture,” Arnot noted.

The key is “authentic transparency”

Resistance is a natural reaction to change that can be remedied with exposure and education. If industries and firms involve the public in their plans and let consumers share their input on critical points in research and development, this could take us a step closer towards achieving genetic literacy and food integrity.

This is a bold and much-needed initiative that must be undertaken. The reality is that humans now need to help nature in order to continue sustaining life on earth.