Vincelli offers tips to use when discussing genetically modified foods
HARRINGTON, Del. — One of the first slides in Dr. Paul Vincelli’s presentation on communicating about genetically modified foods lists all the funding he’s received from companies that make and sell seed or food products with the technology.
It’s a blank page.
“Anything I have to say on the subject comes from being a scientist,” Vincelli, an Extension plant pathologist and Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Kentucky, said at the recent Delaware Agriculture Week.
Following an intensive study on genetic engineering, Vincelli said its safety is well-proven through research but public skepticism and controversy remains, pointing to a shortfall in effective communication between the scientific community and the public.
Using other research in social science areas, he’s taken on a role of outreach to help create more productive dialogue on genetic engineering.
“It doesn’t mean we change their mind, it means we talk,” he said.
When an opportunity arises to discuss genetic engineering, Vincelli told the farmers at Ag Week to let the other person speak first by asking, “What are your concerns?”
That, he’s found, better fosters a conversation instead of a lecture coming from one side.
Repeating the concerns back displays active listening and that you understand the person’s concerns, he added.
Next, he said asking permission to share your feelings about genetic engineering also reduces defensiveness and builds trust.
Moreover, in using this step, Vincelli said he’s never been told no.
From there, he said it’s about staying respectful in discussion and making connections.
Sharing farmer’s general concerns about genetically engineered crops such as resistant weeds or corporate control of genetics is important.
“People don’t have to hold the same position as you, but they will trust you more if you are open about concerns as well as benefits,” Vincelli said.
It’s also important not to challenge someone’s personal experience or to overload interested people with information but to be able to direct them where to go for more information.
As the conversation wraps up, Vincelli said to thank the person for the feedback, which can continue to build trust.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925