Sugaronline Editorial - The US$4 million question By Meghan Sapp

Published: 08/04/2017, 12:41:00 PM

Who's afraid of the big, bad...ahem...GMO?

Who's afraid of the big, bad...ahem...GMO?


Summer is typically a time to get your ducks all in a row, assuming that they had diverted at some point during the past year. It’s a quieter time that allows for reflection and introspection, realigning of priorities and setting out the strategies that will take you through Q4 and beyond. This is what the good folks at Amalgamated Sugar and Western Sugar have been doing, it seems, because they’re teaming up to take on one of the “Big 3” challenges facing the sector in the US.

When it comes to the Big 3 of Farm Bill, Obesity and GMOs, GMOs may be the biggest risk to American sugarbeet producers in the short term due to its impact on demand, and the US Government’s quick response in securing non-GMO specialty sugars, so it should be no surprise that two of the biggest beet producers decided to throw some money at the problem.

US consumers are beginning to reject GMOs en masse in a backlash towards the technology that beet producers say has to do with a general lack of understanding about what it does, what it means, as well as its impact on human health and the environment. Especially online, the agriculture industry is losing the GMO battle so beet sugar producers have decided to tackle it with a US$4 million campaign directed at mothers in three urban centres.

When developing the “A Fresh Look” campaign, moms were identified as the decision-makers when it comes to food purchases whose priorities are said to be primarily what’s good for the environment and what’s good for their children. So the messaging will be directed towards them with an emphasis on the 25 environmental benefits of GMOs the sugar industry submitted to the National Academy of Sciences in September 2015.

If after the first nine months of the campaign they look to be winning some battles in the long war, then the campaign will be extended to a full US$30 million spend on a nationwide campaign. Western Sugar has already spent a lot of effort on its company website to spread information about GMOs as well as obesity, while Amalgamated Sugar doesn’t mention GMOs in its corporate communications even though the company’s CEO has been a vocal proponent of the technology.

Pooling resources into a sophisticated nationwide communications campaign using professional tools for social and traditional media that will actually reach consumers is the only way to make an impact. The industry should use this example as a way to move forward wider collaboration on one of the other Big 3 that need to be tackled jointly: obesity.

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