Various media outlets in China have recently been increasing the public’s fear level regarding GMOs by publishing unverified and often untrue information. Because China is the number one export market for U.S. soybeans, the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is concerned about the myths and misinformation appearing in the popular press and wanted to find a way to reach out directly to Chinese consumers.
Aware that mothers around the world are concerned for the health and wellbeing of their families, USSEC invited four moms to travel to China in September to speak about the safety of GMO soybeans. These four women are steeped in agriculture and have a deep knowledge of GMO soy. The delegation included United Soybean Board (USB) Director Nancy Kavazanjian of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin along with soybean farmers Sara Ross of Minden, Iowa; Kristin Reese of Baltimore, Ohio; and LaVell Winsor of Grantville, Kansas. The mission’s goal was for these moms to connect with Chinese moms about the safety of GMO soybeans.
USSEC set up three meetings between professional moms. Two meetings were with women from public relations agencies in China and the third included Chinese women at the U.S. Embassy. While visiting with journalists, bloggers, PR professionals and staff from the U.S. Embassy in “town hall” meetings in Beijing, the U.S. moms, who are Common Ground volunteers, talked about their families, their farms and the importance of technology, connecting with their Chinese counterparts personally and professionally through pictures and sharing their stories. The meetings created a dialogue about food and families.
“China is such a valuable market for our soybeans,” said Reese. “We must continue to partner in the education process of how and why we farm the way we do in America. We are striving to continuously improve our product and our practices and make sure our customers know it is a top priority.”
Because social media is such an important communications tool in China, the U.S. moms met with two personality partners or bloggers who have hundreds of thousands of followers. A conversation about day-to-day activities, feeding their children and GMOs ensued. Following this meeting, both bloggers indicated their interest in approaching GMO through their blogs. Many questions were asked and lots of misinformation was dispelled during all the meetings. Pre- and post-meeting surveys were distributed to participants, excluding the embassy participants and bloggers.
“The results are positive and encouraging; over 80% of the participants shifted their views positively toward GMO with one third of those indicating they have gained a whole new perspective,” states Jane Hu, session moderator and interpreter.
USSEC is working on next steps for this innovative program to continue the conversation in China to assure consumers about the safety and benefits of GMO soybeans.
Last month, China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced it was launching an effort to educate Chinese consumers about the safety of biotechnology, amid growing distrust and misinformation regarding the technology in that country.