WASHINGTON — About 80% of respondents in an International Food Information Council Foundation survey said they would prefer to receive bioengineered/G.M.O. information on a product package. How the information is worded and what symbols are used could impact their views as well. The survey released June 27 may be found here.
The online survey contacted 1,002 Americans from the ages of 18-80 from May 18-27, or days after the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the May 4 issue of the Federal Register released a proposed rule for a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The proposed rule may be found here.
The proposed rule uses the term bioengineered (BE) instead of genetically modified or G.M.O. Under the proposed rule, companies may disclose bioengineered food or ingredients in three ways: text, symbol, or electronic or digital link disclosure
When respondents in the IFIC Foundation survey were asked how they preferred to receive the legally required G.M.O. disclosure, 51% said a symbol or visual representation and 29% said text on a food package. Other responses were under 10% with send a text message to receive more information at 7%, visiting a web site at 6%, calling a phone number at 4% and scanning an electronic or digital link at 3%.
The U.S.D.A.’s proposed rule also gave three symbols that noted bioengineered (BE) food or ingredients: a logo with a smiling face, a sun logo with a smiling face and a logo with a plant. In the IFIC Foundation survey, the sun logo raised the smallest amount of concern about human health. Respondents also generally liked the smiling face logo. The plant logo was associated with greater concern for human health.
To further investigate how the form of BE packaging may affect views, respondents were shown different bottles of canola oil. When shown a bottle that had no BE logo or text, 31% had human health concerns. When shown a bottle that had one of three symbols (a plant, a sun or a smile), the percentage rose to 50%. When shown a bottle that had a symbol plus “bioengineered” in text, the percentage was 51%. When shown a bottle that had the plant symbol plus “may be bioengineered” in text, the percentage was 57%.
The survey also asked about knowledge of G.M.O.s, with 36% saying they knew very little or nothing at all about bioengineered ingredients or genetically modified foods and another 36% saying they knew at least a fair amount. People age 25 to 34 (54%) and African Americans (49%) were more likely to say they knew a great deal or a fair amount about bioengineered ingredients or genetically modified foods.
Nearly half (47%) of the survey respondents said they avoid G.M.O. foods either entirely or at least somewhat. People age 25 to 34 (59%) and African Americans (52%) were more likely to say they avoid G.M.O. foods either entirely or somewhat. Of those who avoid G.M.O. foods, 85% said it was because of human health concerns. Other top reasons given were the environment (43%), animal health (36%) and agriculture/farming (34%).
“Despite broad scientific consensus that G.M.O.s are safe to consume, a majority of Americans seem to be convinced otherwise,” said Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer of the Washington-based IFIC Foundation. “It’s a significant disconnect, and it underscores the need for more creative public education on the science behind our food.”