Many Consumers Don't Think U.S. Farmers Need To Feed World

Center for Food Integrity says agriculture needs to convince consumers that it has global mission to win support for modern farming.

Published on: Sep 21, 2011

A new study indicates that a large segment of consumers do not believe U.S. farmers should be responsible for addressing global hunger. In its latest analysis of consumer trust in the food system, the Center for Food Integrity found that 40 percent of those surveyed strongly disagreed that, "the United States has a responsibility to provide food for the rest of the world."

The study also shows that more than half the survey participants strongly agreed with the statement, "It is more important for the U.S. to teach developing nations how to feed themselves than to export food to them."

"These results clearly indicate that consumers do not believe U.S. farmers should be responsible for feeding the world.  Agriculture needs to find messages that deliver a direct benefit to consumers or society to build support for today's farming practices," said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI. "If consumers don't believe U.S agriculture has a responsibility to feed the world then we can't build consumer support for today's farming simply by claiming we need to feed more people, unless we can build public support that feeding the world should be a priority."

Stephen Sapp, professor of sociology at Iowa State University, says to his knowledge this is the first large-scale, nationwide survey asking Americans their opinions about U.S. agricultural policies to help feed the world.

"Some might argue that in times of economic recession Americans are less likely to support food assistance programs," said Sapp. "However, history shows that the opposite tends to be true.  Our nation feels obligations to engage in humanitarian efforts. Also, it must be recognized that food exports represent an important source of income for our nation. So, although public opinion about providing food to help feed the world is an important influence on U.S. food production policy, it is not the only factor that guides it."

CFI's annual Consumer Trust in the Food System research benchmarks consumer attitudes and beliefs about today's food system. A detailed report on the findings will be a highlight of the organization's upcoming Food System Summit. Co-sponsored by the International Food Information Council and the National Restaurant Association, the 6th annual Summit is scheduled for October 25-26 at the InterContinental Rosemont Hotel in Chicago.

The 2011 event will feature experts sharing their views on key issues. Dr. Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund will present a keynote address. Walmart's Joe Quinn, senior director of Issue Management and Strategic Outreach, will present the closing. Breakout sessions will concentrate on Food Animal Well-Being; Nutrition and Health; Food Safety; and Technology and Innovation.

For more information and to register for the Summit, please visit www.FoodIntegrity.org.