Consumers Unsure About Biotech Foods

March 27, 2001

2 Min Read
Consumers Unsure About Biotech Foods

WASHINGTON--A survey conducted by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology revealed that Americans do not know much about genetically modified (GM) foods and are unsure about their safety. Nearly half of participants (46 percent) said they do not know what to think about the safety of GM foods. The other half of participants was split; 29 percent said GM foods were safe and 25 percent said they were unsafe. However, when the participants were told that more than half of foods in supermarkets already contain GM ingredients, one in five who had said GM was unsafe changed his mind.

The authors of the study attributed consumer ambivalence to a lack of information. More than half (54 percent) of the study participants said they had not heard much about GM foods or biotechnology, 44 percent said they had heard a "great deal" or "some" about the issue, and a mere 9 percent said they were well informed. "Despite the heated national debate about agricultural biotechnology, most Americans do not have strong or well-informed opinions about this new technology," said Mike Rodemeyer, executive director of the Pew Initiative.

Most of the study participants were uninformed about the pervasiveness of biotechnology in the mainstream market. Sixty percent of respondents believed that less than half of food in the grocery contained GM ingredients and 38 percent believed less than one-fourth of the food supply contained GM ingredients. Additionally, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of participants said they didn't think they had eaten GM products.

Consumers want to know more--while 58 percent of study participants said they do not think GM products should be included in the mainstream food supply, 75 percent said they think it's important for GM products to be labeled. In addition, 65 percent of those surveyed said that more research is needed.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology is a non-profit project of the University of Richmond that is funded by Pew Charitable Trusts, and is intended to provide public policy recommendations, research and education about agricultural biotechnology to the public, media and policymakers. Future Initiative activities will include conferences, workshops, papers and education on biotech topics such as regulation, environmental concerns and economic impacts. Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, has agreed to co-chair a bipartisan Executive Advisory Committee that will oversee future Initiative programs.

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