Consumers Less Uneasy About Biotech Food


Jan 04, 2007

It's been 10 years since genetically engineered crops were planted commercially in the U.S., and still the majority of consumers claim to not know much about biotech food. Maybe that's OK, as their opposition to biofoods is at an all-time low, according to the fifth annual survey on the topic.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, Washington, which sponsored the survey, says Americans overall are "still generally uncertain" about genetically modified and cloned foods. "How the next generation of biotech products is introduced - and consumers' trust in the regulation of GM foods - will be critical in shaping U.S. attitudes in the long term," according to a news release.

The poll has been taken approximately once a year since January 2001, shortly after the StarLink corn recall. Then, 45% of American consumers said they had heard "a great deal" (9%) or "some" (35%) about genetically modified foods. The current poll, conducted Sept. 20-26, 2006 among 1,000 American consumers, found 40 percent were similarly familiar.

Support for GM foods has remained fairly flat since 2001, when just 26% of Americans supported their introduction into the U.S. food supply; this poll found that number at 27 percent. Perhaps more importantly, 58% were opposed to GM foods in 2001, but that number now is 46%.

People vastly underestimate how much gene-altered food they are already consuming, lean toward wanting greater regulation of such crops and have less faith than ever that the FDA will provide accurate information, the survey found.

The poll also confirmed that most Americans, particularly women, do not like the idea of consuming meat or milk from cloned animals - a view that stands in contrast to scientific evidence that cloned food is safe. The FDA recently said it is close to allowing such food on the market.

In the five years since Pew began researching American views of genetically engineered food, U.S. acreage in such crops has grown substantially. Today, 89 percent of soybeans, 83 percent of cotton and 61 percent of corn is genetically engineered to resist weed-killing chemicals or to help the plants make their own insecticides, according to the Washington Post. Because most processed foods contain at least small amounts of soy lecithin, corn syrup or related ingredients, almost everyone in the United States has consumed some amount of gene-altered food.