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2014 LBS: Improving Communications Around Animal Biotech

September 16, 2014
Day 1 of BIO's 2014 Livestock Biotech Summit began with a wonderful opening presentation by BIO's own Cathy Enright, Executive Vice President of Food and Agriculture. Enright discussed that while genetic engineering has been around for years, it is more publicly accepted when used as part of biomedical applications but controversial when learned that it can be used in food production. In her presentation, "GMOs - Changing the Conversation," she argued on the importance of being transparent with the public and to not be afraid of the misleading voices that combat our efforts. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be engineered to have such beneficial properties as insect resistance, drought resistance and produce greater yields with less land. The public is curious to know where their food comes from and will always have questions on how it gets into our supermarkets. Enright concluded her remarks urging the audience to continue to tell their stories to the public, because in animal biotechnology there are "so many great stories to share."

The focus of Dr. Enright's remarks were around the industry's efforts to change the conversation around GMOs. Out of these efforts came the website GMO Answers, which works to do a better job answering your questions — no matter what they are. We encourage you to visit the site to ask your questions and better learn how you can help us to change the conversation around technology.

BIO's morning program also included a presentation by Christie Nicolson of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Christie's presentation "Distilling Your Message on Animal Biotechnology" really provided a new perspective on how to communicate about such a scientifically complex technology as animal biotech. In her interactive presentation, Nicolson worked with her audience on how to digest a complicated scientific abstract on animal cloning, so it can be understood by the general public. She stressed the importance of knowing your audience and knowing the end goal when communicating about your issue. Nicolson also discussed techniques to counter confrontation. For example, if someone suggests that all biotechnology is bad then counter with questions not arguments...So, is life-saving genetically engineered insulin bad? Are GMOs bad? Find the route of their fears. One final takeaway that I saw to be most helpful from the presentation was Nicolson's advice on how to make your conversation and messaging memorable. She urged for instilling emotion in your audience and creating visuals and comparisons, so that your messaging creates common ground that will help it be remembered.

Visit the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science site to learn more about the program.