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GMO Concerns Steadily Grow Among Consumers

CHICAGO—More than half of U.S. consumers express some level of concern about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), compared to 43% in 2002, according to new market research from the NPD Group.

The study, "Gauging GMO Awareness and Impact" suggests GMO concerns are rising due to media coverage and various states’ legislative efforts to label genetically modified foods. In 2002, 43% of consumers expressed any level of concern about genetically-modified foods, whereas now more than half of U.S. adults have some level of concern, according to NPD. Less than 10% of adults were “very" or “extremely" concerned about GMOs in 2002, compared to more than 20% of adults today.

The study showed consumers are concerned about GMOs, despite being confused as to what they are—consumers tended to reiterate that GMOs are genetically altered, sometimes in a favorable way while at other times in an unfavorable way.

Common words used to describe GMOs from consumers were “genetically altered," “not natural" and many consumers said “don’t know." Forty-four percent of consumers said GMOs have some kind of benefit, although a higher percentage expressed some level of concern.

Genetic modification is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “the production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods."

“GMOs have been an issue for some time now," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst. “We are once again seeing more American adults concerned than not. I expect the market to follow these concerns."

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