Overcoming Skewed Perceptions of Risk In What We Eat and Drink — Kevin Folta

88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year in the United States. Nobody has ever died because an ingredient in the food or drink they consumed was genetically modified.

Call it ironic, distracting, or deceptive, marketers are all too aware we have a skewed perception of risk, especially when it comes to the stuff we eat and drink.

That’s why people selling a known carcinogen like Wild Turkey whiskey are advertising it as “non-GMO,” notes Kevin Folta, professor and chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.

“It really shows the misplaced risk. Something we know is a carcinogen, something we know causes people to drive into school buses, putting it into the framework of what is a real risk, there’s no comparison between GM versus alcohol,” he says.

Folta recently highlighted this problem, specifically when it comes to alcohol, on his Illumination blog, pointing out the International Agency for Research on Cancer puts ethanol in the same group of known carcinogens as formaldehyde and benzene

“For the folks that flip out that glyphosate is a ‘probable carcinogen’ in the IARC’s view based on tenuous data, this ranking for ethanol should make them fear sitting next to someone with an open beer,” he writes. “…if I was a company that essentially sold a poison for profit, I would not draw the consumer’s attention to actual risks.”

It’s natural to fear things we don’t understand, Folta says in the interview below. “That’s an engrained human response, and it’s an important one, but the problem is humans can be manipulated using that same skewed risk perception.”

So what steps can be taken to help people make accurate risk assessments about what they eat and drink? How can this skewed perception of risk be overcome? Folta took some time to chat with us at the Manitoba Canola Growers’ Canola Community Summit held at Kelburn Farm near Winnipeg earlier this month:

Related: Tattoos or GMOs? Scenes From the ‘Natural Foods’ Section

2 thoughts on “Overcoming Skewed Perceptions of Risk In What We Eat and Drink — Kevin Folta

  1. Dr. Folta,
    Why is it okay to be eating food that has been tainted with an antibiotic ? Monsanto tried to have roundup registered as an antibiotic and now it is everywhere in our food supply as well as in the soil killing off helpful bacteria that is needed to help keep us all healthy!!! But I guess as you said it is only a risk that we all have to take to have food!!! MAN IS HIS OWN WORST ENEMY.

  2. Another terrible thing we consume at an alarming rate which is worse for us then GMO is sugar. It has a very nasty health effect on us but that never seems to get into anyone’s arguments against GMO foods. If one take sugar out of their diet they would see only positive health effects even if they still consume GMO foods.

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