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Consumers Trust Food Biotechnology, Food Safety, Survey Finds

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While criticism of genetically modified foods has received widespread media attention in the past few years, consumers remain generally supportive of food biotechnology, according to an industry-funded survey released Thursday.

The evaluation – conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) – found that 38 percent of consumers have a somewhat or very favorable opinion towards plant biotechnology, up from 32 percent in 2010. A smaller 26 percent were neither favorable nor unfavorable, and 20 percent were either somewhat or very unfavorable. 

The majority of the consumers also found no need to change the way foods produced with biotechnology are labeled. Current FDA standards require that only changes to nutritional content or composition of a food or a food safety issue must be identified on packaging. 

In a similar display of trust in the food system, 69 percent of the 750 survey respondents reported being somewhat or very confident in the safety of the food supply, a level that has remained the same since the last “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” survey in 2010.

Respondents also relayed overall satisfaction with the information currently provided on food labels, with only 24 percent reporting additional information they would like to see on packaging.

Of those people who requested a change in food labeling, 18 percent reported wanting more information on food safety, a figure that jumped from only 3 percent in the 2010 survey. 

The change most commonly desired by consumers was more nutrition information, with 36 percent of those who want altered food labeling requesting that more data on nutrition content be displayed.

Another thing increasingly on consumers’ minds these days is sustainability, according to the study.

IFIC found that 56 percent of participants had heard of or read something about sustainability, an increase from 50 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008. Almost 70 percent said it’s important that the food they eat is produced in a sustainable way, but only 33 percent said they would be willing to pay more for this food.

“Not surprisingly, awareness of sustainability among consumers is high,” said Marianne Smith Edge, IFIC’s Senior Vice President of Nutrition and Food Safety in a statement Thursday. “The catch is that we see from survey responses that consumers have many different definitions of sustainability, which can make meeting that expectation a challenge.”

While the majority of consumers are now sustainability-savvy, many are not as educated about biotechnology, especially when it comes to animal production. The most common reason given by those “not favorable” towards animal biotechnology was “a lack of information and not understanding [its] benefits,” according to the executive summary.

Benefits was a key word for participants when it came to biotechnology, with strong majorities supporting technologies that would reduce the need for pesticides, improve nutritional quality, or increase production capacity in order to feed a greater number of people. 

© Food Safety News
  • Mayberry Live

    To say there are “many different definitions of sustainability” is a gross understatement. The term sustainability has been bastardized and misused until it has lost all meaning. Too bad because it once represented a significant real concept before activist zealots co-opted and corrupted it.
    Biotechnology is a remarkable scientific advancement. And it is only in its early stages. It will assure opportunity for a reasonable standard of living to be enjoyed by all and opportunity for unreasonable doom-saying by a minority of incorrigible impulsive fear mongers. Just call it a win-win situation.

  • DJ

    Gee, the industry funded study people didn’t contact me. I would have told them that I do not have a favorable opinion of GM foods, which cause me serious stomach pains, among other symptoms. I most certainly want GMOs labeled, so I can avoid them so I don’t get sick. And I am not at all satified with food labels, because they don’t list all ingredients by name, and processing aids are never labeled, which can lead to severe allergic reactions for many of us. A small industry funded study doesn’t speak for me, or millions of other people who have allergies, autoimmune diseases, or other illnesses. We want to know what we are eating, and don’t have a very favorable opinion of our food supply, as it is now. We do not have blind trust in it as this little study would have us believe.

  • Jules

    Ha! “Consumers Trust Biotechnology” — so sayeth the Big Food Industry who have their own “studies” to “prove” it.
    Problem is, all they get by thwarting GMO Labeling at every turn is the ongoing public demonstration of the ascendancy of corporate power in government and the marketplace.
    In case the (meat, produce, processing, etc) Industry doesn’t get it yet — People have a Right to know what’s on and in their food and how it was produced — including all the costs externalized to our health, environment and economy…
    Hiding behind “food safety” only points up that food safety is fast becoming “the last refuge of a scoundrel”….

  • karmal

    “I would have told them that I do not have a favorable opinion of GM foods, which cause me serious stomach pains, among other symptoms.” Exactly what GM foods do you believe you are eating?

  • Hal

    I would like to see documented evidence of even one case of food borne illness caused by a genetically modified food instead of hearing vague anecdotes about somebody’s stomach pains.

  • http://www.fusiononthefly.com Karl Wilder

    Really…most people?
    Was this article paid for by Monsanto?
    In my entire life I have met only one person supportive of Frankenfood and it turns he he gets his research money from Monsanto.
    Total B.S.

  • SeaKat

    They sure went all out with their survey. They managed to contact 750 people, and claim this a proof that consumers trust biotechnology? The survey is a sham.

  • Sue W

    I used to not have any health issues pre 1996. By 1999 I was permanently disabled. As of 2004 I became highly allergic to many different foods and medications. This came along with asthma as a bonus. I did not have any health problems before 1996 .. I thought people who worried about GMO’s were flakes. That was until I got sick and actually looked past the smoke and mirrors they use to hide how they actually create GMO organisms. Then I had an AH HA moment and since cutting out GMO’s I am slowly starting to get better. I certainly do NOT have a favorable view of GMO’s.

  • karmal

    Not a very large sample but it was conducted by an independent researcy firm.
    Methodology
    The 15th “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” Survey was fielded by independent research firm Cogent Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts between March 7 and 19, 2012. Seven hundred-fifty U.S. adults were polled using an online survey tool. Results were weighted on gender, age, race, education, income, geographic region, marital status and education to be nationally representative. Formerly the “IFIC Survey of Consumer Attitudinal Trends

  • Keene Observer

    Thank goodness for GM foods; what would hypochondriacs do without them?

  • Sadie

    An industry-funded survey…please don’t make me laugh. The people do not trust GM products or their makers Monsanto or DOW. I would be open to consider a GM product that was more nutritious or drought resistant or had some NATURAL insect resistant gene inserted from another vegetable but to have a toxic, poisonous compound inserted into a plants DNA to enhance a toxic and poisonous chemical that Monsanto or DOW produces to kill insects is INSANE!!! They have NO idea what could happen to harmless insects (the BEES) or how it would effect the food chain animals, birds, mics, wolves, coyotes the environment…….. The insects will shortly become immune and then what??????? IDIOTS— they also OWN our government….

  • Geo

    Hypochondriacs?? — Mean Observer — surely you’ve observed that the US health statistics are deplorable — and our health care ranks 27th in the World (right behind Latvia)…
    Our citizenry is in dire straits with a bad case of “industrial disease” — an onslaught from our industry-polluted food, water air, soil, oceans, etc etc……..

  • Ted

    Is anyone else noticing a pattern here? It certainly appears those individuals most obsessively vigilant in avoiding GM foods are, coincidentally, also the most emotionally unstable what with all the random typing in CAPS interspersed incoherently with loads of dots ……. dashes — and long trails of question marks ??????? and a rambling string of imagined illnesses, doomsday testimony and wild unfounded conspiracy theories. I mean, it looks like these folks may not be getting enough GM food in their diet. It is as if they have a severe nutritional deficiency of some vitamin responsible for common sense and composure. I can’t help noticing that. Kinda disturbing. Just sayin’.

  • Jon

    Au Contraire, M. “Ted” — judging by yours and other posts of this ilk it’s perfectly evident that you regular eaters of highly processed, GMO industrialized junkie foods are the ones suffering irrational instability and brain damage… get thee to the nearest Farmers Market before it’s too late!!!

  • Angela

    The reason most people don’t have a problem with Genetically Modified food is because they don’t understand what that really means. The majority of people don’t realize that genetically modified are created with viruses and other harmful pathogens. It’s not just splicing a grape seed with an apple seed. I just watched Food, Inc. and it gave an excellent outline of what GM foods are all about.

  • BB

    If you are concerned about food biotechnology, pesticides, unsustainable practices, etc. then here’s the solution: grow your own veggies and raise your own livestock (if you eat meat) that way you are in control and you know where your food comes from. Or you can buy from a farmer who farms with practices you are comfortable with. The problem these days is that everyone is in a hurry, too lazy, reliant on large, government-subsidized, greedy and profit-driven corporations/farmers for food. Grow your own and you won’t have to worry as much.

  • shaunamom

    Ted, I would agree that raising one’s own food helps us be in control of our own food, as does buying from trusted farmers, but unfortunately, that’s not sustainable for most people. That’s the route I’ve had to take, due to reactions to a few substances commonly used in farmer produce, so I can say this from first-hand experience. But 1) growing enough produce to feed your family takes land and time, both of which many of us don’t have unless we’ve got money to buy enough land and we’re farming full time. That’s not laziness, that’s a lack of resources. 2) There are not enough farmers growing without GM produce to support more than a small population. The reason we’ve got a huge agro-business is because we’ve lost most of our smaller farmers until we don’t HAVE enough small farmers to support us.
    Hal, there’s no food bourne illnesses that I’ve heard of, it’s other problems that are cropping up with GM foods. Or rather, there are issues that are appearing in studies on animals. To date, I believe there has only been one study on humans, and that only to look for evidence of GM pesticide DNA in women and their fetuses (it showed up in both). In the USA, GM foods were allowed into the food supply without any testing done on them. Curiously, the man who made that FDA policy then became the vice president of one of the largest GM companies, Monsanto. He worked for them before he got his job at the FDA, as well.
    One of the reasons scientists are concerned is that some animal studies on GM foods show negative effects on the body. With these issues showing up in animals, many scientists believe we shouldn’t be using these ourselves until we know how they do – or don’t – affect humans.
    Perhaps in the end they will be shown to have no effect, but using them without that knowledge seems foolish. And it’s something that will affect an entire generation AND our environment. Makes me think of some of the biological disasters which Europeans brought with them when they introduced new species to habitats and ended up destroying entire populations. A GM food seems like a small thing, because it looks like the original, but it may have a big effect.

  • http://invasivespecies.org.au The Weed’s Network

    I think the claim that we should grow plants that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides because this will lead to a reduced use of herbicides is misleading. The more detailed claim of biotechnology promoters is that everyone should use herbicide resistant crops because this will help us feed the world while using less herbicides. If they succeed in seducing us with this claim, and we stop weeding with alternative methods — such as those that are now successfully used in organic farming — using herbicides to grow food will surely lead to an increased use of toxic herbicides.

  • Michele

    The United States has over 313 million people and this research was conducted on 750! That’s ridiculous. And who conducted this so-called research? Oh yes the industry itself.
    Thank goodness people are becoming more educated and understand some of the very likely health risks as well as the damage to the environment from genetically modified foods.

  • Linda

    Just label it… and let the people decide.