The safety of the food that is consumed has continually increased over time. Conversely, modern technologies and communication allow misinformation to be widely accessible, making it difficult for consumers to make heads or tails of the information they receive. As a result of false information, there is a lack of knowledge about food, its production, and how it reaches store shelves. Why does this dichotomy exist? Part of the reason is that the food industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry and competition for space on grocery store shelves and consumer grocery carts is fierce. This competition for consumers’ food dollars leads the food industry to aggressively brand food products and label to appeal to discerning consumers, especially consumers interested in, and willing to pay for, niche products. The result has been a plethora of food labels such as gluten-free, natural, hormone-free, or non-GMO.
The broadness of biotechnology serves to connect different types of modern plant breeding techniques with the potential to improve global food security. However, the topic goes beyond the specific example consumers associate with the term—genetic modification. As a result, it is often unclear if consumers really know what they claim to understand, and the efforts to clarify the science and reasoning behind the use of these practices are often obscured. Two online surveys of 500 Canadians were conducted in 2017 on this topic.
Three-quarters of Canadians have high levels of trust in those who provide information about food, yet two-thirds believe that modern plant breeding technologies are unnatural. Canadians lack basic knowledge about modern plant breeding practices and technologies and possess high levels of uncertainty regarding the potential for benefits or externalities to develop from the commercialization of new genome editing plant breeding technologies.
Read the complete research at www.cabiagbio.biomedcentral.com.
Williams, C., Gleim, S. & Smyth, S.J. Canadian perspectives on food security and plant breeding. CABI Agric Biosci 2, 15 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43170-021-00036-9