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Public perception influences success of GM productsPublic perception influences success of GM products

2 Min Read
Public perception influences success of GM products

THE success of agricultural biotechnology depends as much on consumer acceptance of genetically modified (GM) products as it does on the ability to create them, according to William K. Hallman, professor and chair of the department of human ecology at Rutgers University.

Hallman spoke at the 2016 Joint Animal Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Assn. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

To explore public perceptions of GM food products, Hallman surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,148 American adults in October 2013. Data were collected by GFK Knowledge Networks from an internet panel recruited using proportional random sampling. The data were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population and had a margin of error of +3%.

According to Hallman, the results showed that, despite the ongoing controversy over GM foods, 50% of Americans reported having heard or read little or nothing about them, 55% reported that they knew very little or nothing at all about them and 66% said they had never discussed the issue of GM foods with anyone.

Estimates are that 75% of processed foods in the U.S. contain ingredients derived from GM crops. However, only 43% of Americans said they believe there are foods containing GM ingredients in supermarkets right now, while 4% said there are no such foods in U.S. supermarkets and 51% said they didn't know, Hallman noted.

He explained that many people who believe there are GM foods in the supermarket are confused about which products are available. For example, while 75% correctly believe products containing GM corn are available in U.S. supermarkets and 59% correctly believe the same about products containing GM soy, nearly as many indicated that they believe GM tomatoes (56%), GM wheat (55%) and GM chicken (50%) products are available, and 35% believe that GM salmon currently is for sale, none of which are available. Moreover, even though GM food products have been on the market in the U.S. for more than two decades, only 26% of Americans believe that they have ever eaten a food containing GM ingredients.

Yet, while most Americans said they have heard and read little about GM foods, know little about them, have never had a conversation about them, don't believe they are currently in the supermarket and don't believe they have ever eaten them, most are willing to express an opinion about the acceptability of GM food products.

When asked directly, Hallman said only 10% of consumers indicated that they approve of GM animal-sourced food products, 44% disapprove of them and 43% neither approve nor disapprove of them or are unsure. Hallman noted a much greater public acceptance of GM technology when specific product benefits were described.

Volume:88 Issue:08

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