Most Americans pay little attention to genetically modified foods, survey says

4 November, 2013

Source: – jCp

The survey, released by researchers at Rutgers University, found that more than half (53 per cent) say they know very little or nothing at all about genetically modified (GM) foods, and one in four (25 per cent) say they have never heard of them. Even with the media attention resulting from recent ballot initiatives in California (Proposition 37) and Washington State (Initiative 522) and legislative actions in at least 20 other states that would require labeling of GM foods, the Rutgers study found that only about a quarter (26 per cent) of Americans realize that current regulations do not require GM products to be labeled.

“Americans do care about what’s in their food, and they do read labels,” said William Hallman, professor of human ecology in Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and lead author of the study.

“Eighty-two percent of the respondents told us they sometimes or frequently or always read food labels. But determining what labeling information they value is not a straightforward task. Whether consumers say they want GM food labels depends on how you ask the question, so we asked about it in several ways.”

Before introducing the idea of GM foods, the survey participants were asked simply “What information would you like to see on food labels that is not already on there?” In response, only seven per cent raised GM food labeling on their own. A similar number (six per cent) said they wanted more information about where the food product was grown or processed. In contrast, when asked directly whether GM foods should be required to be labeled, 73 per cent said yes.

The survey asked respondents to rate the importance of various kinds of information on food labels. Fifty-nine per cent said that it was very or extremely important to have information about whether the product contains GM ingredients on a label. This is about the same number who indicated that it was similarly important to have information about whether the product was grown using hormones (63 per cent), pesticides (62 per cent), or antibiotics (61 per cent), whether it was grown or raised in the United States (60 per cent), and whether the product contains allergens (59 per cent).

The respondents were part of a nationally representative Internet-based panel, and the data reported here have been weighted to be nationally representative, with a +/- three per cent margin of error. A summary of the study’s findings is available online at . The study authors are Hallman, Cara L. Cuite, and Xenia K. Morin, all of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.