The Food and Drug Administration may have made more news for its much-publicized first-ever approval of an application for genetically engineered salmon, but it was the FDA's decision to deny a petition seeking mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products that drew particular support from industry organizations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).
"The FDA made the right decision for the right reasons, standing with sound science and recognizing that the world’s most respected and authoritative scientific and regulatory bodies have repeatedly found genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be safe," noted GMA President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey.
That's all very well – and it is, since science is firmly on the side of GMOs – but to mitigate mounting consumer confusion and blunt further erosion of confidence, the retail food industry must do a better job of communicating the safety of these food items to a skeptical, even fearful public.
Simply pointing to the science isn't enough. In the current climate of hysteria regarding "frankenfoods," with increasing numbers of consumers calling for transparency and the right to know who produced their food, where and how, grocers will be expected to take on a greater role in allaying their shoppers' justifiable concerns.
As in-store sampling events and related "meet and greet" demos rise in popularity, the same strategies could be employed with genetically engineered products (salmon croquettes, anyone?) that are promoted and offered to customers as such, with a representative of the company/grower on hand to answer any questions directly and put a recognizably human face on a process that most laypeople find anything but human.
Demonstrating to customers that their worries about GMOs are taken seriously, and providing them with substantive answers in a transparent, non-defensive manner, will go a long way toward establishing a trusting, mutually respectful relationship between grocers and shoppers.