SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Hungry for Truth initiative has released a new television commercial addressing the safety of the genetically modified or biotech crops farmers raise in South Dakota. The commercial shares a positive message about these crops, which have been the center of controversy with consumers in recent years. The spot features Kimball, S.D., soybean farmer Bradee Pazour talking to moms about the safety of GMOs. Pazour can speak about GMOs because she not only raises biotech crops on her farm, she feeds them to her family.
"As a mother and a farmer, this is a topic that hits close to home for me. I understand why parents want to know where their food comes from," she says.
Jerry Schmitz farms near Vermillion and is President of the South Dakota Soybean Association. He says Pazour was a perfect fit for the commercial.
"We thought it would be appropriate to have someone, a mom, come and talk to people about GMOs and what she does on her farm," he says.
In the commercial, Pazour is talking with other moms at their kids' soccer game. One of the moms says she's glad they brought non-GMO snacks, so Pazour shares that a GMO option would be just as nutritious.
Schmitz says in the spot Pazour also confirms the safety of GMO foods.
"She's sharing with folks that she knows about GMOs and she's checked on their safety and that she wouldn't be feeding them to her family if they weren't safe," he says.
Pazour cited a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that found no difference in risks to human health between biotech and conventionally bred crops. The report also found no conclusive evidence of environmental problems associated to GMO crops.
The commercial addresses GMOs because it's one of the top consumer issues identified through the Hungry for Truth initiative. Marc Reiner is a Tripp, S.D., farmer and chair of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.
"The last two years we've had conversations with consumers. One of the questions that has come up is GMOs and the commercial talks about GMOs," he says. "People are wondering because they hear about it in the news, they see it on the internet, and so it's something that we want to address."
Reiner says the spot not only informs consumers about why GMOs are a safe food choice, it also sends them to the Hungry for Truth website for more information.
"There we can talk about why we use [GMO crops] on our farms, some of the benefits that we have and help them gain a better understanding of that technology," he says.
In its third year, Hungry for Truth has been tackling issues important to consumers, who just want to understand where their food comes from.
"They have questions, and they have concerns, and we need to share with them what we're doing on the farm, why we do it and listen to their concerns and address them," Schmitz says.
He says when it comes to GMOs, consumers with whom he has engaged have had plenty of questions about the safety of the technology. He responds with the facts.
"The industry does a lot of testing, and the government does a lot of checking on GMOs before they can ever reach the market," he says.
However, Schmitz says today's consumer also wants more than just the scientific answer, they want a value based response.
"I tell them that if GMOs weren't safe, I wouldn't feed them to my own family," he says.
Soybean farmers that are part of the initiative have had conversations with consumers at various Hungry for Truth events the last two years. Those conversations also have addressed food safety and labeling, pesticide and fertilizer use, sustainability and family farms. Reiner says they are trying to get more farmers to connect with consumers and start a conversation about food and farming.
"Farmers are very passionate. We care about what consumers think of our farms and what they think of agriculture in our state, and we want everybody to have an opportunity to join in on this conversation." he says. "Farmers are really excited about hearing about what consumers have to say, hearing what consumer's questions are.... just to help bridge that information gap."