In fact most high-profile chefs - or at least the ones on TV that have influenced whole generations of 'foodies' - are anti-GMO, and if the food and biotech industry wants to change the conversation on GE crops it needs to engage with them, delegates at IFT were told Monday.
Speaking at a session on GMOs that was focused on moving beyond unproductive 'he said, she said' arguments about the technology, 'The Taste of Tomorrow' author Josh Schonwald said the food industry should focus on trying to engage people that consumers actually listen to.
"Chefs are like rockstars in our culture today. People listen to them. So what are we doing in the food science community to educate them?"
The cornerstone of the food movement is that if something is affordable, durable and available, it's not 'special'
Instead of wheeling out all the reputable scientific organizations that say GMOs are safe, 'big food' might be better off heading to the Culinary Institute of America, the Research Chefs Association or calling up some TV chefs to ask them what they know about genetic engineering, and why they are worried about it, he said.
And the reasons are likely more emotional and political than fact-based, he said. "The cornerstone of the food movement is that if something is affordable, durable and available, it's not 'special'."
Indeed, it is "politically incorrect in 2014 for a foodie or a chef to be pro-GMO," added Schonwald, who presented a slide with 'small', 'local', 'natural', 'artisanal' and 'craft' on one side and 'big food', multinationals', 'industrial', 'Monsanto' and 'technological/processed' on the other.
The key to changing the conversation will be giving more airspace to people that consumers trust, from chefs to organic farmers such as Raoul Adamchak , who believes that organic farmers and GE crop breeders share the same goals of reducing the environmental impact of growing food, he said.
"We've got anti-science protesters. We need more anti, anti-science protestors."
John Ruff: Maybe industry should just label GMOs and move on?
Speaking at the same event, former IFT president John Ruff said that the debate over GMO labeling, meanwhile, had become so corrosive that it might even be time for the industry to consider labeling foods produced from GE crops and moving on.
While there were valid arguments against labeling, he said, we might have got to a point where the industry's opposition to it was only serving to generate more negative sentiment among consumers, many of whom have been led to believe that the industry's opposition proves it has something ugly to hide.