Survey: Consumers not avoiding biotech foods, don't want labels
A new survey of U.S. consumer perceptions of agricultural technology shows a strong majority would be willing to purchase foods made with wheat produced using biotechnology if the innovations delivered nutritional or environmental benefits.
The survey was sponsored by the International Food Information Council.
Overall, most consumers surveyed indicated favorable or neutral impressions of plant biotechnology, with no one surveyed saying they are avoiding foods with biotech-derived ingredients.
Asked to describe what additional information they would like about food products, less than 1 percent of the survey respondents said they want to see information about biotech-derived ingredients on product labels.
Comparatively, nearly 9 percent of respondents said they'd like to see more about a food's nutrition and about 6 percent of respondents said they'd like to see more about food safety. The vast majority, 76 percent, said they could not think of anything they'd like to see added to a food's label.
The recent survey is IFIC's 15th food technology survey since 1997, the longest running of its kind.
Compared to the last IFIC technology survey in 2010, the results of this survey show little change in attitudes among consumers with regards to their overall impression of using biotechnology in wheat to produce food products like bread, crackers, cereal and pasta.
Consumers indicated they are supportive of biotechnology when considering its potential benefits. For instance, about 70 percent of consumers surveyed this year indicated they would be willing to buy products made from wheat produced using biotechnology if it provided additional nutritional benefits or was grown using less land, water or pesticides. Because wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world and the source of 20 percent of the world's food calories, these attributes could have tremendous benefits.
Wheat produced using biotechnology is not in commercial production anywhere in the world, and the introduction of biotech wheat is still an estimated seven to 10 years away.
However, scientists at public universities and private companies in the United States and around the world have increased their commitments to wheat improvement in recent years and are working with both conventional and biotech breeding tools to develop new varieties that will improve yield and reduce input needs.
National Association of Wheat Growers, which represents U.S. wheat growers domestically, and U.S. Wheat Associates, which represents U.S. wheat growers in overseas markets, are committed to providing wheat farmers with the opportunity to utilize biotechnology to increase productivity while decreasing environmental impacts.
More results from the IFIC technology survey are at www.foodinsight.org.