Thank you, Betty Crocker, for standing with science and modern agriculture
Are you #BakingWithBetty? I am.
Granted, Betty Crocker cake mixes (specifically the ones with “pudding in the mix”) always have been my favorite, at the rock-solid recommendation of my mom. But now I have another reason to pick up their products.
On May 16, a Twitter user named Michael Lyons (@lyonsmw) tweeted the following:
“Reading a can of @BettyCrocker frosting this AM, as one does, and learned it’s ‘partially produced with genetic engineering.’ Wait, what? Betty, Betty, Betty … explain yourself, please. #GMO #geneticfrosting #FrankenFood”
So what does Betty have to say for “herself” on the matter of genetic engineering? She’s saying what scientists say:
“GMOs are safe, we would not use them if we thought otherwise. Safe food is, and always has been, our number one priority. Global food and safety regulatory bodies including the FDA and the WHO have also verified their safety.” The tweet from @BettyCrocker ends with a link to a statement on the General Mills’ website about GMOs, explaining why the company considers them safe, the history of the technology and the importance of science in food production.
The General Mills’ statement also explains that they know some people remain uncomfortable with the thought of genetically modified crops, especially because of concerns of over-reliance on herbicides and decreases in biodiversity. The company explains it does have and labels a variety of organic and non-GMO products.
What I love about the Betty Crocker response is that it doesn’t vilify anyone.
I have no problems buying, using and feeding my family with GMO products. I trust science and trust that techniques will continue to improve. But I have no problem with other people having a different way of looking at things. If you want to buy a product that has not used biotechnology, go for it.
Betty Crocker didn’t back away from its way of doing things or try to deflect. It didn’t, in the way of some other food companies (cough, Panera, cough, Chipotle), decide to start badmouthing modern agriculture. Instead, the company presented honest, open information in a non-argumentative way. It stood up for its way of doing things, and thus stood up for the farmers who grow crops that end up in Betty Crocker products.
In doing so, Betty Crocker gained supporters in agriculture, with a number of so-called “Ag Twitter” users announcing their intentions to start #BakingWithBetty.
The one problem I do have with the General Mills’ GMO statement is that it touts the fact that it has enrolled some products in the Non-GMO Project. I hope, as federal biotechnology rules go into effect in the near future, that companies like General Mills will consider dropping that propaganda program in preference to a more honest label. (For those who aren’t aware, the Non-GMO Project labels products as non-GMO even when there are no GMO varieties available for a product, thereby confusing consumers. It also labels products for which there is no genetic material to be modified, like water and salt. Thus, it provides no substantial information but instead exists solely to smear GMOs.)
Even so, the Betty Crocker and General Mills response was mature, well-executed and sound. Just as I’m likely to buy a pizza from Domino’s (which proudly supports agriculture and the farmers and ranchers whose products end up in their pie) when I’m too lazy to cook and I almost always stop at Culver’s (which displays its support for farmers and ranchers and raises money for agriculture education) whenever I’m in Fargo, I’ll be more likely going forward to pick Betty Crocker over other brands.
So, thank you, Betty Crocker, for supporting science and for not being ashamed of that fact. Many of us in agriculture happily stand — and bake — with you.