Large Biotech companies want you to know that they aren’t that bad; they’re just misunderstood. That’s the thought behind a new website, GMOAnswers.com, which aims to answer questions anyone might have about genetically modified organisms. “We have not done a very good job communicating about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms,” said Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information Cathleen Enright in an interview with The New York Times. “We want to get in on the conversation.”
The website, run by the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), is the centerpiece of a campaign that CBI hopes will bring in support for GMOs. GMOAnswers.com addresses the health and safety concerns about GMOs. It also allows for visitors to submit any questions they may have that aren’t covered in the information already on the site.
According to the site, those questions will be answered by biotechnology company employees or outside farmers, nutritionists, scientists or other experts. In addition to answering questions, the site will also be a centralized source of information that the companies that are members of CBI (Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and BASF) have supplied to regulators. That information, while public, has been difficult to find before. “We have been accused of purposely hiding information,” Enright said. “We haven’t done that but now we will open the doors and provide information.”
This seemingly new interest in being open could stem from the growing resistance to GMOs. A number of states are looking at legislation that would require the labeling of foods made from genetically engineered corn, soybeans and other crops. The labeling legislation is taking hold fast in the northeastern part of the country, while in the Pacific Northwest; some places are looking to ban GMOs entirely. Oregon in particular has been a vocal part of the anti-GMO movement and has seen everything from legislation to ban GMOs to agro-terrorism as a result.
Executives in the biotechnology industry truly seem to think that people will be more accepting of their products if more information is available about them, and will help cool the labeling debate. Enright feels labeling foods containing GMOs will scare consumers away if the labels make the products seem different and less safe. Since a major argument against GMOs is they aren’t safe, Enright’s concerns aren’t completely unfounded. However, not labeling the GMO products makes the companies appear as if they are purposely hiding the information. Until the labeling debate is resolved, CBI’s new website could serve as a middle ground where both sides can come together for a conversation about the issues at hand.