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Hoopla, scare tactics aside, public is accepting of GMOs


Despite all the protests, scare tactics, and outright misinformation about the safety of food products with GMO ingredients, a significant majority of U.S. consumers is underwhelmed by the issue.

And they’re equally indifferent to the issue of requiring food labels to indicate the use of GMO ingredients.

A survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found most consumers supporting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current labeling policy for GMO-containing foods. Additionally, many said they would likely purchase biotech-produced foods to obtain certain benefits, such as nutrition.

For some 16 years, the survey has consistently shown that most respondents — when made aware of the agronomic and health advantages of food biotechnology — are receptive to the concept, and that accurate information about the technology is important in making informed choices about the foods they buy.

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Only 4 percent wanted information about biotechnology or related terms, an extremely low number, given all the publicity about state labeling efforts.

Nearly two-thirds said they support the FDA’s current labeling policy for foods with GMO ingredients. That policy calls for labeling only when biotechnology substantially changes the food’s nutritional content or composition, or when there is a potential safety issue such as food allergies.

“Years of legislation, ballot measures, and mischaracterization of food biotechnology have not affected overall support of the FDA’s biotech labeling policy,” says IFIC President/CEO David Schmidt.

Some 71 percent of Americans now have some awareness of plant biotechnology, with the 18-34 “millennials” age group having a significantly more favorable impression of food biotechnology than the 35 and older age group.

A majority said they would be likely to buy foods modified by biotechnology for various nutrition/health benefits, and 72 percent would likely purchase food products made with oils modified by biotechnology to produce more healthful fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids. More than two-thirds said they would likely buy biotech-improved foods to reduce the potential for carcinogens, to protect crops from insect damage, and to use fewer pesticides.

Seven of 10 consumers believe that modern agriculture can be sustainable, using modern tools and equipment, and that it can produce food that is both safe and nutritious. More than half the survey respondents had an awareness of the concept of agricultural sustainability, and with millennials awareness was even higher, at 61 percent.

Two-thirds of consumers said it is important that the foods they buy or consume are produced in a sustainable way (with “sustainability” defined as meeting long term food needs by producing more food affordably, with the same or fewer resources, in a way that is better for the environment and keeps foods affordable and accessible).

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