Changing public sentiment about genetically modified (GMO) food is a tricky challenge that won’t happen overnight, a panel of biotechnology advocates said at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

Even with mountains of scientific studies declaring the safety of biotechnology, many consumers hold on to misconceptions riding the waves of social media and 10-second TV sound bites.

"There’s a culture out there that it’s bad," Alison Van Eenennaam, a University of California-Davis animal genomics researcher, said during a Food Dialogues panel discussion on consumer perceptions of GMOs. "They’re trying to shut down science. I think it’s becoming increasingly political."

The other panelists, including Iowa farmer Julie Kenney, food activist David Sutherland and public relations pro Jay Byrne, agreed with Van Eenennaam’s assessment.

Closed minds

Sutherland, a vegan who actively supports food biotechnology, said he often encounters closed minds when he ...