DuPont, Monsanto Others Plan $50 Million Ad Effort on Biotech Foods

Wilmington, Delaware, March 10 (Bloomberg) -- DuPont Co., Monsanto
Co., Dow Chemical Co. and others plan a $50 million, three-year advertising
campaign to keep consumer fears about genetically engineered foods from
taking hold in the U.S. and Canada.

The companies formed a coalition with the U.K.'s AstraZeneca Plc,  France's
Aventis SA, Germany's BASF AG and Switzerland's Novartis AG
and plan to start the campaign as early as April, according to a
company official involved in the effort.

The campaign is an effort to head off any concern U.S. consumers might
have about genetically engineered foods. While there is no evidence
such foods are unsafe, consumers in Asia and Europe have rejected them
and some U.S. food companies, such as PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay unit,
are demanding non-genetically engineered ingredients.

``They've been taken aback. They were unprepared at the amount of
backlash they received in last year,'' said James Halloran, an analyst
with National City Bank in Cleveland, which holds shares in Dow,
DuPont and Monsanto.

In the U.S., about 60 percent of the packaged food sold in U.S.
supermarkets contains genetically altered ingredients.

``Right now, the vast majority aren't even aware,'' said Kathy Forte,
vice president global public affairs at DuPont. ``But the research
shows once people become aware they tend to move toward a negative or
skeptical position. Our feeling is while people are neutral, we should
get out a message about the positive aspects.''

The campaign will aim at convincing consumers that the technology can
provide benefits such as the creation of more nutritious foods or the
ability to farm using fewer chemicals. The companies also want to
convince people biotechnology can help farmers in developing countries
fight pests and crop diseases.

The primary functions of genetically modifications to crops are to
create varieties that resist pests, disease or weeds.

Hired Ad Agency

The companies have hired the advertising agency BSMG Worldwide for the
campaign, which would also include an Internet site, brochures and a
toll-free phone line.

So far, the industry has had difficulty getting its message across.
Since Monsanto ran a newspaper advertising campaign in Europe two
years ago, the companies have remained relatively quiet.

``We've been allowing the other side -- the critics -- to frame the
whole discussion,'' said Tony Minnichsoffer, a spokesman for Novartis'
U.S. seed operations in Golden Valley, Minnesota. ``Many of us in the
industry strongly agreed something needs to be done. A lot of thought
it should have been a long time ago. We were sitting around not doing
much.''
 
 

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