Agricultural Biotechnology and Public Perceptions
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Much of the debate concerning the acceptability of agricultural biotechnology can be traced to the fact that food is viewed as an entitlement in most of the developed world. In the United States (U.S.), Europe, and other parts of the world, food is abundant. This abundant food supply is increasingly taken for granted, and treated cavalierly by consumers and government. On any given day, the U.S. has less than forty-five days of food supplies, and these supplies are viewed as a "surplus". In contrast, two hundred years of oil supplies are viewed as a "strategic reserve". All of us involved in agriculture must assume some responsibility for allowing such attitudes to persist. We have failed to raise public awareness about the economic significance of an adequate, safe, and affordable food supply. This failure to raise public awareness can be traced to two main problems. First, the economic benefit of improving nutrition, and food safety is very difficult to measure. How does one place a value on the improved nutritional content of food, or on food that is safer to eat? Second, there is the problem of how food safety issues are reported. A few people dying from food poisoning is newsworthy, while preventing millions from ever running such a risk is not.
AgBioForum 1(1) 1998: 38-39.