[author: Donald Zuhn]
A survey on consumer perceptions regarding food technology indicates that many U.S. consumers have favorable opinions concerning the benefits offered by plant and animal biotechnology. The survey, which was commissioned by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1985 to effectively communicate science-based information about food safety and nutrition, was conducted by polling 750 U.S. adults between March 7-19, 2012 as to their perceptions on various food technology issues.
The survey found that 74% of respondents had read or heard at least "a little" about the concept of food biotechnology. With respect to plant biotechnology in general, respondents who had somewhat or very favorable opinions concerning plant biotechnology (38%) outnumbered those who had somewhat or very unfavorable opinions (20%). The percent of respondents having somewhat or favorable opinions was up from 32% in 2010. Almost half (49%) of respondents had favorable opinions concerning the use of biotechnology by farmers to grow more crops in order to help meet food demand. A majority of respondents noted that they were somewhat or very likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology in order to provide more healthful fats (71%), avoid saturated fat (68%), or make foods taste better or fresher (69%). Given the choice between increased pesticide use or biotechnology, 77% of respondents said they would be likely to purchase foods that had been biotechnologically engineered for their ability to reduce pesticide use. While a majority of respondents said they would be somewhat or very likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology to achieve a number of specific benefits, the number of respondents saying they would be likely to buy such products had dropped since 2010 (see chart below).
With respect to animal biotechnology in general, respondents who had somewhat or very favorable opinions concerning animal biotechnology (33%) outnumbered those who had somewhat or very unfavorable opinions (26%). However, the difference in these groups was less pronounced than it was for biotechnologically engineered plants. Half of the respondents had a somewhat or very favorable impression regarding the use of genomics to evaluate animals in order to make better breeding decisions to achieve improved meat, milk, and egg quality. However, only 44% of respondents had a somewhat or very favorable impression regarding the use of genetic engineering to transfer beneficial traits from one animal to another in order to improve nutritional content or lessen environmental impact. Despite this result, a majority of respondents (71%) still said they would be likely to buy meat, milk, and eggs from animals enhanced through genetic engineering, and a majority of respondents (67%) still said they would be likely to buy fish enhanced through genetic engineering, provided in both cases that the FDA determined that such products were safe (see chart below).
A majority of respondents (66%) also indicated that they supported the FDA's current food labeling policy for foods produced through biotechnology. Only 24% of respondents believed additional information should be required on food labels, with only 3% suggesting that the additional information that was needed on labels related to biotechnology.