The biotechnology industry has begun a three-year, $50 million program to educate consumers about the safety and benefits of bioengineered foods. The program, sponsored by the Council for Biotechnology Information, will include a Web site, toll-free consumer number, information materials, and television and print advertising.
“It’s important to us that as awareness builds there are good sources of information. . . . We find that when people are aware of the potential impact of biotechnology they feel very positive about it,” said Thomas C. Humphrey, president of DuPont Nutrition and Health, one of the seven companies sponsoring the campaign.
Among the advantages of bioengineered crops, notes the new campaign, is that “the developing world could certainly use an increase in the food supply, and the use of biotech crops is one way to make it happen,” said Professor Jennifer A. Thomson, head of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. “Biotech crops can help cut down on the losses due to pests and disease, and these crops can introduce drought tolerance so that marginal lands can be planted. Thomson serves as a distinguished advisor to the Council.
According to Dr. Louis Sullivan, president of Morehouse School of Medicine and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, “food biotechnology has enormous potential for developing more nutritious foods and addressing health and hunger problems in our fast-growing world. It is important to encourage responsible development of these technologies and inform the public of them.”
The Council for Biotechnology Information is a coalition of seven leading companies with an interest in biotechnology, plus the industry trade association: the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Its goal is to make it easier for people to get information about biotechnology. The Council’s founding members are: Aventis CropScience, BASF, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Zeneca Ag Products and BIO. Associated with the Council are a range of other organizations and trade and industry groups that support the use of the technology and believe in its current future benefits.
Jeremy Rifkin, a long-time opponent of biotechnology, believes the ad campaign will backfire. “When people watch these ads they’re going to say, ‘What are genetic foods? Why are they in our stores?’ In Europe, when people heard about genetically modified foods they became more skeptical.”
Rifkin and many prominent antitrust lawyers filed a lawsuit last December against Monsanto claiming the company was involved in anticompetitive pricing and failed to adequately test newly engineered seeds before releasing them to the market.
For more information
about the Council for Biotechnology Information, visit its new Web site at www.whybiotech.com, or call toll-free at 1-800-980-8660 for a copy of the Council’s brochure.