Why GMO Myths Are So Appealing and Powerful

By Cami Ryan

Social Scientist

Recently, an executive with a biotech trade group asserted in an interview that it wasn’t too late to win the hearts and minds of consumers suspicious of genetically modified foods. (131) Biotech advocates just need to do a better job of explaining the technology and its benefits. The headline for the piece read:

It’s not too late to change the conversation on GMOs.

While I admire this optimism and agree that we should continue to engage in conversations about GMOs, there are certain present-day realities that constrain our efforts to find common ground on this very controversial topic.

At the top of this list is the sheer amount of information we are inundated with every day. Many of us are tapped into mobile technology. We are referred to as ‘just in time’ users (Rainie and Fox 2012). We account for 62% of the entire adult population who often look to online sources and online social networks for information. Anti-GMO interest groups have successfully leveraged these networks to disseminate misinformation and influence public opinion. Using carefully crafted words (frankenfoods!) (132) and images (syringes in tomatoes), (133) they create mythsGM corn causes cancer, (134) fish genes have been forced into tomatoes, (135) or GM corn kills the larvae of monarch butterflies (136) that tap into people’s fears about genetic engineering.

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