Confusion, concern reign when it comes to bioengineering

by Keith Nunes
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CHICAGO – More than half of consumers express concern about bioengineered ingredients, but when asked to describe the ingredients many are unclear as to what they are, according to study released Dec. 19 by The NPD Group.

The study, titled “Gauging G.M.O. awareness and impact,” asked consumers to explain what the term genetically modified organisms mean. Common words used included “genetically altered,” “not natural,” and many simply said they did not know.

While 44% of the consumers surveyed said bioengineered ingredients offer some form of benefit, The NPD Group said a high percentage expressed some level of concern.

The study comes at a time when interest in bioengineered ingredients is high. Several states have placed labeling initiatives on ballots calling for the labeling of foods containing bioengineered ingredients. The NPD Group said news about the efforts may be a factor in the levels of concern regarding bioengineering.

In 2002, 43% of consumers expressed any level of concern about bioengineered foods and a decade later over half of U.S. adults have some level of concern, according to NPD’s Food Safety Monitor, which tracks consumer awareness and concern about food safety issues. As far as levels of concern, less than 10% of adults were “very” or “extremely” concerned about bioengineered ingredients in 2002, but now that concern level is at more than 20% of adults, and has steadily increased.

“G.M.O.’s have been an issue for some time now,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group. “We are once again seeing more American adults concerned than not. I expect the market to follow these concerns.”
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