Monday, February 25, 2008

Lighten up and lessen the resentment...

Biotech manufacturers have been relentless in their aggressive promotion of the controversial technology. And arguably, it may have been necessary to be in every face every moment to defend this nascent industry. However, without doubt, whether because of this strident clamor or despite it, it is now clear that biotech is well and truly established and flourishing.
FOR a decade Europe has rebuffed efforts by
biotechnology firms such as America's Monsanto to promote genetically modified crops. Despite scientific assurances that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe for human consumption, and a ruling by the World Trade Organisation against national import bans in the European Union, many Europeans have yet to touch or taste them. But that may soon change, according to Iain Ferguson, boss of Tate & Lyle, a British food giant. “We sit at a moment of history when GM a fact of life,” he said this week.

Mr Ferguson, who is also the head of Britain's Food and Drink Federation, argues that because many large agricultural exporters have adopted GMOs, it is becoming expensive to avoid them. Copa-Cogeca, a farmers' lobby, this week warned that the rising cost of feed could wipe out Europe's livestock industry unless bans on GMOs are lifted. Meanwhile, European agriculture ministers failed to agree on whether to allow imports of GM maize and potatoes; the decision will now be made by the European Commission, which is likely to say yes. [More]
But is hard sell the optimal public relations strategy as the tide of acceptance turns?

I would suggest (doubtless much to the horror of PR firms who feed on billable hours) that a less-intense approach could accomplish more than a continued self-promotion that amounts to little more than end-zone dancing. Finding a way for the last holdouts to change their minds as gracefully as possible by simpling toning down the ad campaign and pausing to listen thoughtfully could be the best money Monsanto, et. al. never spent.

As the Clinton campaign is desperately trying to figure out - judging by the combination of messages in the last three days - attacking a gracious winner is really hard to do successfully. Biotech is a winner and every day that passes reinforces the industry's claim to safety and widespread benefit to consumers and producers alike. Time works in our favor. I like to quietly ask especially outspoken opponents if they have seen even one of the horrifying outcomes predicted for RR beans for example. And we are well into a second decade of real world data.

Why not take the "Cal Ripken" approach: modesty? And then use the dead air time to listen to customers and neighbors for clues to where we could find our next winning strategy.

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