Thanks to industry initiatives and the concentrated grassroots efforts by independent activist groups, most consumers are, at some level, aware of the presence of GMOs in foods and dietary supplements. Unfortunately, this awareness exists in the periphery of most consumers’ consciousness and rarely, if ever, affects their attitudes in the short-term, or their purchasing behavior in the long-term. The underlying reason for this disconnect between awareness and activism may be attributable, at least in part, to the inherent ambiguity in the purpose and scope of the Non-GMO messages themselves.
5 issues disrupting the non-GMO message
- For starters, there seems to be little or no consistency among industry organizations on whether messages about GMOs should be informative and simply focus on their existence and scope or prescriptive and go so far as to offer specific calls to action to address the problem of GMOs in our supply chain.
- Second, messages about GMOs lack clarity with regard to whether the objection to the use of GMOs in foods and dietary supplements is political, philosophical, or health-based. Because consumers vary considerably in their reasons for supporting or opposing any issue or cause, messages that fail to clearly identify the motivational basis for the argument against GMOs are more likely than not to miss the mark with consumers.
- Third, while most messages summarize the problem of GMOs, very few actually provide specifics on how exactly consumers are affected by the problem and what, if anything, they can or should do to address the problem. This lack of specificity only serves to further confuse consumers who are already overwhelmed by the dizzying array of factors they have to take into account when making a purchasing decision and has the unintended consequence of consumers rejecting the message in its totality.
- Fourth, even messages that are designed with the explicit purpose of encouraging consumers to participate in the non-GMO movement suffer from issues of incoherence and inconsistency. For example, while some messages encourage consumers to denounce GM ingredients and, consequently, GM farming, others simply require consumers to support legislation that will require labeling of GMOs in foods and supplements.
- Last, but not the least, the unfortunately reality is that messages about GMOs simply lack the credibility to have any sustained impact on consumer attitudes and behaviors in the long-term. To clarify, the lack of participation in the non-GMO movement by a majority of the nutritional supplement companies detracts more from the credibility of the non-GMO cause than it does from the credibility of the companies themselves.
Common sense dictates that, when confronted by conflicting messages and ambiguous choices, consumers will frequently choose inaction over activism. The net consequence is the wasted effort that goes into the creation and delivery of messages that miss their mark more often than not, and this translates into little or no long-term change in consumer attitudes or behaviors related to GMOs.
Identifying and overcoming these message barriers is necessary if we are to create and deliver clear, coherent, and credible messages that will resonate with consumers empower them to make informed purchasing decisions that will help support the efforts of individual companies and the industry, as a whole, to advance the Non-GMO cause, and, hopefully, bridge the disconnect between consumer awareness and activism.