A farmer is one the most trusted people in the public mind, according to countless surveys, but that doesn’t mean the public trusts what they’re actually doing.
This uncomfortable fact was driven home in two recent studies assessing public attitudes to agriculture in Canada and the U.S.
The first, released last month by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), found that 71% of Canadians consider farmers a credible source of information and also rank them as a most-trusted source of information, above university researchers and farm organizations.
While levels of concern with genetic engineering, pesticide use and drugs are stable, 91% of respondents claim to know little or nothing about agriculture.
But when it comes to putting technology to work on farms, a survey released this month by Cargill found mixed results.
While 85% of respondents say technology can help boost production, make farming more sustainable and improve the lives of farm animals, only half of those surveyed want to eat food from those farms. Respondents would far rather see technology deployed to advance health care and education.
On the flip side, farming ranks above national defence in terms of popular acceptance of technology.
CCFI’s study says how people talk about the benefits of technology may be key to the opposition. Using computer analysis of responses, it found people equating cheaper food with lower quality products.
“By emphasizing GMOs role in reducing food costs, there’s a possibility that we’re inadvertently inviting people to think of GMOs as reducing the quality of the food,” it said.
CCFI surveyed 250,000 people over an 18-month period that ended in June 2019 to come to its conclusions. Cargill surveyed 3,000 people in the U.S., South Korea and France for its study.