People can change their attitudes in response to information from a credible source. Trusted information sources are described as knowledgeable, concerned with public welfare, truthful, and with a "good track record." Less-credible sources are characterized by exaggeration, distortion, and vested interest (Frewer, et al., 1996). Consumers in the United States considered health authorities, such as the American Medical Association or the American Dietetic Association, as the most credible, followed by university scientists and regulatory groups like the FDA (Hoban, 1994).
Many groups are involved in education in the United States. An industry organization has funded television advertisements that address the benefits of this technology. Professional societies, such as the American Dietetic Association and the Institute of Food Technologists, have prepared material for their members, the media, regulators, and the public. Universities and colleges also have outreach programs to keep the public informed about new developments.
Consumer surveys taken following outreach programs show increased recognition that biotechnology can be used to reduce pesticides, produce healthier foods, produce hardier corps, and develop new medicines. For example, a brief video describing the potential risks and benefits of biotechnology followed by an open discussion presented to community organizations found an increased recognition that biotechnology offers society both risks and benefits (Bruhn and Mason, 2002). The majority of those participating in the program felt that society would benefit from the applications that this technology could provide.
The biotechnology industry’s monitoring of consumer response to television advertisements that describe some of the beneficial applications of this technology found that 1 in 10 consumers could describe a food- or crop-related benefit. Tracking attitudes from March 2000 to July 2002 found that the consumer awareness that biotechnology could be used for various applications increased. Agreement that biotechnology allowed farmers to grow more food to feed the world’s population increased from 61% to 70% (Council for Biotechnology, 2001). Agreement that biotechnology could be used to develop hardier crops that are able to grow in poor conditions, such as drought, increased from 58% to 65%. Similarly, recognition that biotechnology could be used to develop healthier foods, such as foods that are lower in fats or higher in nutrients increased from 45% to 54%. Recognition that biotechnology could be used to reduce the need for chemical pesticides increased from 42% to 48% (Council for Biotechnology, 2001).