American shoppers have access to more information than ever before. As a result, they have more opportunities to share their opinions about how food is grown and raised. In many instances, these concerns have resulted in a response by major food companies to market food under a myriad of labels from "sustainable" and "natural" to "GMO-free" and "locally-grown." But, what do these terms really mean, and what impact do they have on farm production practices and consumers' perception of today's agriculture?
To address these issues, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), in conjunction with the Nebraska Soybean Board hosted a Food Dialogues: Pivoting the GMO Conversation at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in September. More than 100 attendees and nearly 7,000 people have viewed the livestream. A panel of farmers, academics and environmental experts discussed the differing conversations surrounding biotechnology and its impact on today's food and the environment.
"The conversation around food and farming - what determines safe or unsafe food, good or bad agricultural techniques - is out of balance, which is why this Food Dialogues and the film FOOD EVOLUTION is so important," said Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Academy Award-nominee and Food Evolution director/producer, who moderated the panel. "Some may call Food Evolution a defense of GMOs, and it certainly is a reset of an out of balance conversation, but the main reason I made the film was to defend the importance of everyone, from parents to politicians, using science to inform the decisions they make."
Here’s what the panelists had to say:
With new technologies, such as soil moisture probes and GMOs, we can be as precise as possible and protect our natural resources - Jeremy Brown, Texas cotton farmer
We can relate to others if we tell our personal story and be informative, for example, there's no nutritional difference between organic food and their conventionally-grown counterparts - Amber Pankonin, MS, RD, LMNT, Former President of Nebraska Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
We need to be transparent on both sides, it's not us against them. Our entire food system needs to work together, and let's keep in mind that farmers are business owners, stewards of the land and true innovators - Danielle Nierenberg, Co-Founder of FoodTank
We have the opportunity for farmers in emerging economies to double their yields through modern production practices, including biotechnology, and transform their farms from subsistence agriculture to marketable agriculture - Dr. Marty Matlock, University of Arkansas
GMO crops allow our farm to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. We use science to improve our farming methods - Hilary Maricle, Nebraska crop and livestock farmer
With a polarized discussion marked by fear, distrust and confusion and the controversy surrounding GMOs, Scott Hamilton Kennedy's film Food Evolution separates the hype from the science to unravel the debate around food, sparking a fact-based public dialogue about biotechnology. USFRA is engaging influencer and consumer audiences through promotion and enhanced distribution of this film, through college/university campus screenings, educational materials, and more.