The organic vs. conventional food debate continues to simmer, without any resolution toward what the better option is. It appears that the age-old debate regarding whether the chicken or the egg came first will be resolved long before the organic food dispute is. In fact, there is an enormous divide between what millennial consumers are demanding and what millennial farmers are willing to produce.
According to a recent study conducted by the Organic Trade Association, parents 18 to 34 years of age make up the largest group of organic consumers in the United States. Among these millennial mothers and fathers, 52 percent are buying organic food for themselves and their families.
On the other hand, 48 percent of millennial farmers said they are less likely than their predecessors to use organic methods on their farm (based on a study by Millennium Research, Inc.). As these young farmers continue to take over farming operations, it appears the divide between the consumer and producer will grow.
There is a chance that science could help bridge this strong divide. A 2015 survey conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 57 percent of millennial respondents trust scientists. While millennials are aware that genetically modified crops are developed in labs, they are still skeptical about the science behind GMOs.
Could a shift toward pro-GMO products be imminent among millennials? One person who did make the shift was Bill Nye. While the Science Guy is not a millennial, he is well known and revered by the millennial generation. In 2015, Nye took to StarTalk Radio to discuss why he shifted away from his anti-GMO stance.
Nye changed his mind after visiting a lab where scientists conduct the modifications. He was able to watch them scan entire genetic sequences of crops in a remarkably precise manner. This process happened to be much more precise than what it was 20 years ago.
“This is what changed my mind, is being able to do [sequence genes] 10 million times faster than they used to be able to do it,” explained Nye. “And being able to eliminate the [genes] not suitable for farming and susceptible to diseases and so on.”
Nye also outlined the plausibility of breeding drought-tolerant crops, the drawbacks to organic farming and how GMOs could actually help reduce the stress on crop-pollinating bee populations.
As GMO science continues to improve, millennial consumers may begin to shift their views on GMOs and conventional farming practices. However, this shift will not be ushered in without complete candor from conventional farming brands. To cut through the clutter that is already clogging the GMO debate, brands may need to rely on influencers like Nye to help tell their story.
After all, statistics show that the majority of millennials are willing to trust in science, but trust is built on a certain level of understanding. Until conventional farming brands build comprehension around GMO science, millennials will continue to fight it.