Consumer education leads to support for ag technologies

October 5, 2012

Consumer attitudes toward modern food production technologies can be significantly improved by providing information from credible sources that helps consumers understand the broader social benefits of today’s systems, according to new research from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI). A new approach tested in CFI’s 2012 Consumer Trust in the Food System study resulted in significant increases in support for certain modern farming technologies.

An online survey of 2,001 people measured attitudes toward five technologies commonly used in today’s farming systems. Attitudes were then re-measured after the participants were provided messages that detailed the environmental, social, or animal well-being benefits from credible sources.

The study showed double-digit increases in positive attitudes toward genetically modified (GM) crops, antibiotic use in meat animals, and indoor food animal production.

“This data gives us a better understanding of the kinds of messaging we can use to move the needle in a positive direction,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO at CFI. “This data shows us the things we can say to consumers that actually increase support for the kinds of production practices in place today on farms that allow us to produce more food using fewer resources. Our focus this year was finding compelling ways to convey that today’s food system is better aligned with mainstream values than many realize.”

Some of the messages that were most effective in changing consumer attitudes would be considered basic information to those familiar with modern farming techniques. For example, informing survey participants that raising food animals indoors protects them from predators and bad weather resulted in a significant improvement in positive attitudes as did messages that using GM seeds reduces the use of water, fuel, and greenhouse gas emissions.