Who are you going to trust when it comes to facts about GMOs—researchers, activists, or the people who actually make them? Wait… Is this a trick question?
A new website, GMOAnswers.com, has been launched by the Council for Biotechnology Information, promising to answer any question consumers put to them about genetically modified organisms. And who is the Council for Biotechnology Information when they’re at home? Why, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF and—oh yeah—Monsanto.
Biotech companies join the GMO conversation
“We have not done a very good job communicating about GMOs,” Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information, told the New York Times. “We want to get into the conversation.”
Apparently, they don’t count the millions of dollars spent on anti-GMO labeling advertising to defeat the passage of legislation that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled in states across the country. In California, proponents claim the vote was swayed by the ad blitz, which mainly asserted that new labeling laws would cause food prices to go up.
The biotech industry contends that GMO labeling laws would scare away consumers by making them believe that GMO foods are somehow less safe or different from conventional foods. The Food and Drug Administration has taken the position that genetic engineering does not make foods materially different from conventional foods, and so, the industry group’s new website and corresponding goodwill campaign are supposed to help set the record straight.
Got GMO questions? Ask a Monsanto scientist
The website will purportedly answer virtually any question put to it about GMOs, though at this writing, many of the questions were being answered by other participants in the forum—mainly vocal supporters of GMOs; only a small number had been officially answered by a representative of the group.
The group has also said it will make public on the site the findings of animal studies and other information required by regulators, making the information easier to access. In addition, Ms. Enright told the Times that crop biotechnology companies would begin offering tours of their facilities to the public.
Critics are likely to see the website through propoganda-colored glasses, as it seems highly unlikely that the group would publish any unflattering information about GMOs on its own website. Yet, the group has taken one bold step so far simply by using the term “GMO” in the website’s name; up until now, the industry has shunned the term because of its perceived pejorative nature.