More U.S. Consumers Know about GMOs; Concern Still Looms
By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication Director: Currently, a little more than a third of U.S. consumers have little or no awareness
In Arizona, farmers grow three biotech, or GMO crops: Cotton, Field Corn and some alfalfa.
NPD’s report, Navigating GMOs for Success, explores how genetically modified foods or beverages impact grocery shopping and consumption habits. According to the report, the more aware and concerned a consumer is, the more the consumer attempts to make perceived “healthy choices” when grocery shopping and shop at specialty grocers, produce stores, and other grocery channels in addition to traditional grocery stores.
“People don’t want technology in their food because it’s very personal,” suggests Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “They want it in this,” he adds as he holds up his smart phone
Director Ramaswamy, who grew up poor in India, shared these insights during a recent National Ag Library Interview series. “As scientists, we have to engage with the public to demonstrate why it is that we do this; how do we do it and show them how and become totally transparent as well. And we have failed to do it.”
Arizona cotton, alfalfa and small grains farmer Steve Sossaman
TV news coverage and social media have informed consumers about
In the midst of this information swirl, Director
Although awareness of GMOs is increasing, very few consumers (11 percent) are aware that a federal GMO labeling law was passed earlier this year. The law, which goes into effect in 2018, gives manufacturers the option of showing if their foods and beverages include genetically modified ingredients - either by words on the label, a symbol on the label, or an electronic code readable by a smartphone (QR code). Consumers, who are already relying on the packaging as a guide to determine if a product was made using GMOs, prefer on-package labeling versus using the QR code, reports NPD.
“With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMOs and how their use benefits their customers,” says Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “They want to know about what happened to the product before it reached the shelf in areas such as country of origin, corporate responsibility, allergens, and other health information. Consumers today want to be informed and appreciate it when food companies make the effort to educate them.”
NPD’s report suggests that consumers need the right information to be better informed even as the American consumer is more aware of GMOs. “Biotechnology is really the application of the latest knowledge to improve something,” explained Director Ramaswamy. “So, engaging the public to help them understand why these things are done and how we do them in an open and transparent manner is important. Don’t just throw Data at them. And, avoid coming across as condescending and patronizing would go a long way. So, we have to collectively do a better job of helping staff and colleagues develop the ability to engage the media and the public.”