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Biotech Industry Admits US Consumers Are Leery of GE Foods

Biotech Industry Admits US Consumers
Are Leery of GE Foods

The Associated Press
September 20, 2001 Biotech food officials say consumers still leery

By EMILY GERSEMA

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa

Leaders in the biotechnology industry say there has been little consumer
opposition to biotech drugs, but consumers still are leery of genetically
modified foods.

"There is a lack of understanding and misinformation ... a fear that things
are moving so fast," said Andrew Benson, a spokesman for the
Washington-based International Food Information Council, a biotech
information group.

Benson, Gov. Tom Vilsack and about 70 biotech company officials met Thursday
at an Iowa Biotechnology Association conference in West Des Moines, where
speakers discussed ways to improve the public's opinion of biotech foods.
The media and protest groups are to blame for consumers' fear and
opposition, Benson said.

"It's an info gap, it's a credibility gap and a trust gap," Benson said.
He encouraged companies to educate consumers through Web sites, advertising,
and toll-free telephone numbers.

"Knowledge and understanding, or a basic sense of what's going on, is
fundamental to acceptance," Benson said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gillian Woollett, of Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America, said the biotech drug industry has not encountered
any fear or opposition from consumers.

"I think when people are sick, they don't even ask the question at all," she
said.

Woollett said she expects the division between medical and agricultural
biotech companies to blur as companies experiment with putting drugs in
foods, but believes that will not happen for at least 20 years.

Vilsack also appeared at the conference and was named "Bio Governor of the
Year" by the Iowa Biotechnology Association for his work in promoting
biotechnology with other state governors.

Vilsack said he thanks those working with biotechnology because they offer
hope for the future.

Reflecting on his recent trip to South Africa and Nigeria, Vilsack said the
two countries need such technology to ease starvation and poverty.

"They recognize that the only way they can deal with the monumental task of
building a strong nation is to feed their people," he said.
The governor also spoke briefly about last Tuesday's attacks, saying the
best response people can have is to give children hope.

"This industry has a particularly strong opportunity to send that message of
hope because it is figuring out ways of delivering nutrition to the world,"
Vilsack said.

On the Net:
International Food Information Council: http://www.ific.org
Iowa Biotechnology Association: http://www.iowabiotech.com/
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: http://www.phrma.org


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