I keep looking for some indication that the public is coming 'round on GMO's. If they are, I haven't seen the evidence. In fact, it looks to the contrary:
Note that GM food has the largest public-science divergence. Bigger than climate change.
I have two reactions. First, this issue may be simply carried along in the tides of science disdain indicated by other specific controversies above. Climate, vaccinations, GMOS's, etc. are all part of a larger holistic problem for many perhaps.
But it could also be that GMO's are the heavy lifter for the anti-science crusaders. Like nuclear power, which never really cleared escape velocity, rejection of the evidence of GMO safety seems to be an enduring, possibly even strengthening popular sentiment.
All this can be more than a little discouraging. We've been "telling our story" like crazy. And without any positive results, and possible the opposite.
Second, we don't seem to have any viable tools to change these attitudes. In fact, it appears altering public attitudes its getting harder, much harder.
Last month, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, published the results of a study that he and a team of pediatricians and political scientists had been working on for three years. They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.
The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked. The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect. The other two interventions fared even worse: the images of sick children increased the belief that vaccines cause autism, while the dramatic narrative somehow managed to increase beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. “It’s depressing,” Nyhan said. “We were definitely depressed,” he repeated, after a pause. [More]OK, let's get past the moaning and figure out what this means to our respective business plans. I'm thinking we get out of the GM promotion racket. If this was a side enterprise on our farm, results like above would have pulled the plug on persuasion long ago. I suppose as long as Monsanto et al, are paying for it, what the heck?
I'm ready to stop pouring time and political capital down this lost cause rathole. Despite frantic pleas from our suppliers, I don't see strong efforts to outlaw GMO's on the most distant horizon. The effect will probably just show up in consumer preferences in the marketplace. And we are not moving that needle in the right direction.
I also think GM inputs could be revealed as luxury items as corn slides toward $3. Maybe it is great stuff, but it's rapidly becoming great stuff I can't afford. US producers have "scienced" themselves into high-cost producers, and unwinding that economic misstep will be ugly.
So I think I'll listen to my customers, push back against my suppliers, and treat this debate as just another economic challenge. I can live with or without GM products.