“If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done”

Auto Date Wednesday, June 11th, 2008


We need to know we are being played and that we have the power to end agricultural biotech by putting pressure on food processors and manufacturers. 

 If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done. 

This was said by Dr. Thomas J. Hoban, professor of sociology and anthropology, NC State University, during a presentation in 2006 to the Association of Agricultural Production Executives (he gave the same presentation to the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, as well as to other organizations). 

With a background in sociology, Hoban’s work has focused on “how people understand and respond to controversial changes and environmental issues” such as biotechnology.  He was a member of the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology and the US government’s (taxpayer funded) National Science Foundation even funded his team to the tune of $99,940 to conduct a survey about public attitudes and biotechnology. 

What did Hoban learn about U.S. attitudes toward biotechnology? 

  • More consumers are opting out of the industrial food system in favor of booming organic market

  • Growing sense among consumers and food industry that risks are not being addressed in open manner

  • Confidence in U.S. government has dropped significantly in recent years

  • Animal cloning and biotech will further undermine consumer confidence

What strategies does he suggest to U.S. governmental agencies, food organizations, and the biotech industry to reduce GMO backlash with U.S. consumers? 

  • Spend more time and money educating  consumers and the food industry about biotech
  • Recognize that many consumers now have concerns over biotechnology

  • In order to promote consumer demand  (instead of just holding off rejection) he says one message should be used — tell people “Biotechnology reduces the use of chemical pesticides.

In a blog post in March, I asked,  

Why is it that people continue to mistakenly assume genetically engineered crops feed the world and help the environment by reducing pesticide use?  Perhaps because the government and the biotechnology industry expend questionable efforts to “educate” consumers, the media, and politicians with propaganda championing GE food as safe and necessary. 


In reality, genetically engineered crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty, states a report by Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety. 

How does Hoban suggest the U.S. government and biotech industry prevent further rejection of biotechnology?   To be profitable, he says they must respect the needs and concerns of the food chain (not consumers, but food processors).

  • The food processing, retail and service sectors have significantly more market clout than the agricultural and biotechnology sectors combined

  • So far, biotech has only meant headaches and costs for the industry (no real benefits in sight for years)

  • If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done

Because there had been consumer resistance due to labeling and information available in Europe, many of the same companies that use GE ingredients in the U.S. are GE-free in Europe:  Coke, General Mills, Kelloggs, Heinz, Hershey, Kraft, McDonalds, Burger King, Nabisco, Nestle, Pepsi, and others.  We, too, can be GE-free if there is enough consumer awareness of GE food.   

Another case of consumers making a difference in the U.S. is with rBGH:

As of March 2008, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that its store brand milk in the U.S. would come exclusively from cows not treated with GE cow growth hormones (rBGH). 


Grocery chain Kroger Co., with 2,500 stores in the U.S., began in February selling only milk produced without the use of rBGH.  Safeway Inc., with more than 1,700 stores, switched its in-store brands to non-rBGH milk and back in January, Starbucks has only used non-rBGH milk in its stores. 


As the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. with more than 4,000 locations, however, Wal-Mart was the “big get” for consumer advocates.  The retailer said that its change was prompted by consumer demands. 


As consumers become aware, big changes can happen.  Your dollars and your voice wield the most influence. The U.S. government and the biotech industry know this.  


Stop buying GE foods and contact food processors and manufacturers and let them know we do not want GMOs in our food.   


Hoban is right, “If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done.”  You choose with your money spent AND when you voice your opinion to food companies.  You can make a difference.




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