The firm that has been a pioneer in the development of genetically engineered crops made a strategic marketing error in the 1990s. Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto, said the misstep was “the biggest mistake my company has made.”
During a January forum held at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., Fraley acknowledged that once Monsanto had developed its initial genetically engineered varieties, “we spent our time communicating with farmers who were using the products and we did not spend the time we needed directly with consumers.”
He said company officials are moving to correct the error by engaging consumers in a dialogue and by providing transparent evidence of safety. The goal is to build trust with consumers, Fraley added.
The need for such products will steadily increase in the next 35 years. Based upon projections of the world’s human population growth, the demand for food will nearly double in volume between now and 2050. “That means we have to produce more food in the next few years than we have [produced] in the entire history of the world,” Fraley said.
He called for improved efforts by scientists, government officials and others to communicate the benefits of food science innovation. The collective effort must narrow what he termed a “gap between what is possible to do and achieve and what the public is comfortable with and understands.”
A video of the forum is posted at http://www.cato.org/events/gmos-future-global-food-supply-medical-innovations.