business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, MNB reported on an Associated Press survey revealing that "66 percent of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7 percent are opposed to the idea, and 24 percent are neutral."

There are some, of course, who would suggest that these survey results should be taken with a grain of salt. And others who would argue that they should be taken with a truckload of salt. Such people will be heartened, no doubt, by a story in the Washington Post saying that "a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support 'mandatory labels on foods containing DNA'."

The Post writes: "The Oklahoma State survey result is probably an example of the intersection between scientific ignorance and political ignorance, both of which are widespread.The most obvious explanation for the data is that most of these people don’t really understand what DNA is, and don’t realize that it is contained in almost all food. When they read that a strange substance called 'DNA' might be included in their food, they might suspect that this is some dangerous chemical inserted by greedy corporations for their own nefarious purposes."
KC's View:

I generally prefer to take an optimistic view of the American citizenry; I think they are not stupid and should not be treated by marketers as if they are.

On the other hand, stories like this remind of the great quote from H.L. Mencken, who once said that "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

My argument always has been that GMO labeling makes sense because companies will be better off in the long run if they pursue a policy of total transparency - that this is the smart strategy, even if it is the more challenging one. Are all Americans smart enough to get it? Maybe not ... but this is, in my view, should be a case of reaching for the highest common denominator.