WASHINGTON — Consumers benefit from the quality and bounty of gene-edited foods, a technology with roots that stretch thousands of years into the past.
A recent nationwide study revealed that U.S. consumers have limited awareness about gene editing and are more willing to purchase gene-edited foods when they know the specific benefits to the consumer, the environment and animal health. When consumers are informed of the benefits of gene editing, market potential for gene-edited products exceeds 15%, according to the FMI Foundation that released the study with American Farm Bureau Federation.
In the production of gene-edited foods, DNA is adjusted by deleting a snippet of genetic information or by inserting a desirable trait from a breed of the same species. This method is used to achieve a range of improvements, and is not to be confused with genetically modified organisms, which contain DNA introduced from other organisms.
Humans have altered the genetics of organisms for 30,000 years through selective breeding and artificial selection.
“Farmers and breeders have been improving plants for thousands of years, thanks to evolving innovations that allow us to produce better food, feed and fiber in a safe and sustainable way,” said Andy LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association, which collaborated on the study. “Plant breeding innovations like gene editing hold the key to addressing many of our collective global challenges––from health and nutrition, to hunger and climate change. This research demonstrates the need to engage in an open dialogue with consumers about the importance of innovation and the critical role it plays in the future of our planet, our health and our food.”
With limited awareness of gene editing, consumers might succumb to fear stoked by marketing strategies. Wilmer Stoneman, vice president of agriculture, development and innovation at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the current societal trend asserts “manmade or altered products” are harmful and to be feared.
“The word ‘natural’ is a marketing term meant to imply your product is more wholesome than mine,” Stoneman said. “The nutritional value of a vegetable is the same no matter its genetic origin. Super foods like broccoli, cauliflower and other commonly accepted foods would not exist without this type of science. We’d still be eating just cabbage instead of the variety of plants that have come from its genetics.”
–Virginia Farm Bureau