In a bid to reduce fears that their products are unsafe or unhealthy, a coalition of GMO farmers is using Valentine’s Day to spread the word about the foods’ benefits via free chocolate.
If there is one thing Americans are sweet on, it’s chocolate.
That’s why A Fresh Look, a coalition of 1,600 GMO farmers, is giving out free chocolate for Valentine’s Day. The group, which started the Ethos Chocolate brand, is using the holiday to promote GMO foods and spread the word about the benefits of GMO farming.
“It’s a neat way to connect with people through a product they love,” said Rebecca Larson, lead scientist for A Fresh Look. “Who doesn’t love the treat of a chocolate bar? It gives us an opportunity to combat misconceptions.”
For example, Larson said some consumers feel GMO foods are “unsafe” or “less nutritious,” when research doesn’t back that up. With the campaign, A Fresh Look hopes to provide people with a tasty treat, along with some GMO education. One of the reasons the coalition chose chocolate is that GMO farming has had a huge impact on the cacao plant.
“The cacao plant that chocolate is derived from faces all sorts of pressure from the environment and climate change,” Larson said. “The trees could go extinct as soon as 2030. GMO is one way to create resistance and tolerance so that plant can thrive longer.”
When consumers go to the Ethos Chocolate website, they can learn more about GMO farming and send a free chocolate bar to friends or loved ones. Ethos offers four chocolate bars: the Optimist, plain chocolate; the Trendsetter, chocolate apple; the Survivor, chocolate papaya; and the Hero, chocolate orange. Each bar’s packaging offers a lesson about GMO farming.
“If you flip the bar of chocolate over—on the Trendsetter, for example—there is a little narrative about what GMO farming has done for apples,” Larson said.
The Optimist packaging discusses the impact of GMO on cacao farming, while the Survivor looks at the impact GMO farming had on saving the papaya plant. “The papaya industry would cease to exist if not for GMO technology creating ring spot [virus] resistance,” Larson said.
One key component of this campaign is that it capitalizes on the fact that people value information from friends more than ads from companies or organizations. Having the chocolate sent through the website as a gift leans into that. “It’s coming from a friend or a family member,” Larson said. “It sends this great message.”
A Fresh Look is happy with the results so far. As of Feb. 11, they’d given away 3,000 chocolate bars. “From my perspective, so far, so good,” Larson said. “The only lesson is maybe we should have made more chocolate bars.”
While the campaign was only supposed to last through Valentine’s Day, Larson said its popularity has the group considering whether to expand it. “We’ve been in discussion about what the future looks like. Right now, it’s a limited time release,” she said. “We’re looking at how to expand the campaign.”