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Let’s talk about Cheerios
by David White
After more than a year of being heavily lobbied to remove genetically modified ingredients from Cheerios, two weeks ago General Mills announced that its original Cheerios are now non-GMO. Many folks in the farm community have expressed strong views on Cheerios news.
How would you respond to issues that friends and members of your family share with you about food system issues, such as GMOs? One of my friends on Facebook responded to my post about Cheerios with the following: “What people also need to know is that GMO traits are only carried in proteins, and there is NO protein in refined sugar, so whether it was sugar from GMO (sugar) beets or sugar from cane, the refined sugar did NOT have any GMO DNA or traits. Likewise for the corn starch that is in Cheerios. So, the change is PURE PUBLICITY and positioning and has no impact on the nutritional or chemical make-up of the actual Cheerios.”
There is nothing inaccurate about what my friend said. Unfortunately, science simply isn’t the lead element in building trust. Considering that 49 percent of the public says that conventional agriculture is on the wrong track, we need to follow a model that builds and further develops trust. Your Farm Bureau membership helps to provide us with the resources to help build more trust with consumers though efforts like those of the U. S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).
USFRA advises us that trust is cultivated when we Engage, Acknowledge, Share information and Earn trust (EASE). I’ve conducted many training sessions for Farm Bureau members where consumer engagement tips are presented through the EASE theme.
We need to look for a connection (What are your concerns about today’s food system? When you make food choices what are your top concerns?) and acknowledge that consumers have concerns, even if they are not the same as your own.
It may also be helpful to keep in mind that consumers are not necessarily criticizing farmers and ranchers; they’re simply asking questions that they believe are reasonable about their food. It may also be helpful to remember that consumers are most concerned about long-term health. Anything not deemed “natural” – antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fertilizers herbicides and GMOs -- may perceived to be a threat to human health.
Additional resources that you may find helpful include the following:
If you are interested in having a Conversation with EASE training for a group, or simply attend a training, send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
David White is Senior Director of Commodity Relations for Ohio Farm Bureau.