Likelihood to purchase biotech foods surveyed

There's been recent press citing a survey which suggested that consumers in the U.S. hold mixed feelings about biotech food. The latest results of a long-running consumer survey by the International Food Information Council provide another perspective.

In 2006, the IFIC commissioned Cogent Research to conduct a quantitative assessment of U.S. adult consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology. It was the 11th in a series of surveys since 1997 by the IFIC evaluating U.S. consumer attitudes toward biotech in food.

Key points in the latest survey:

  • Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of consumers said they are confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply. When prompted to indicate food safety concerns, most consumers mention microbial foodborne illness (36 percent) or improper handling (35 percent), while only 3 percent of all consumers cited food biotechnology.

  • Although more than half reported avoiding some type of food or food ingredient (59 percent), none mention biotech foods as something they are avoiding. When asked directly, only 2 percent said they have changed their consumption behavior due to concerns about food biotechnology.

  • Over half (53 percent) of consumers surveyed were unsure about potential benefits. However, consumers with an opinion were twice as likely to believe biotechnology will provide benefits in the next few years than not (33 percent vs. 14 percent, respectively). Those who believe there will be benefits are most likely to cite improved nutrition (41 percent) or quality (35 percent).

The survey found that in general, likelihood to purchase biotech foods increases as awareness increases. Learning of the benefits of biotech foods has a significant impact on consumers' likelihood to buy, particularly for a health benefit (77 percent likely to buy for increased omega-3 fatty acid content; 75 percent for reduced saturated fat content) or insect protection/pesticide reduction (75 percent), but also for improved taste or freshness (63 percent).

Full survey methodology, findings, and conclusions can be found online at www.ific.org — see the link ‘Food Biotechnology: A Study of U.S. Consumer Attitudinal Trends.’

The IFIC points out that “there is a clear need for science-based information about the subject. This information should be conveyed clearly and accurately to the public, using understandable language and providing contextual information.”

As a farmer and food producer, I couldn't agree more. Overwhelming research has concluded that this technology is absolutely safe for consumers and the environment. Consumer education is the key to opening doors of opportunity through crop biotechnology.

Al Skogen
Chairman of Growers for Biotechnology

skogen@daktel.com

Organic criticism ‘inaccurate hyperbole’

After recently participating on a panel with Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute, at the Dairy Business Association's annual meeting in Madison, Wis., I didn't think he could incorporate any more inaccurate hyperbole into his attack on organic agriculture — but I was wrong.

Reading the Delta Farm Press' December 26 article (at deltafarmpress.com) I was awestruck by the fact that Mr. Avery was actually suggesting that increased fungi in organic food somehow had a relationship to the use of livestock manure as a soil amendment and that some organic vegetables actually had higher toxic contamination than conventionally grown produce. Furthermore, I was astonished that he would be disseminating concocted propaganda such as suggesting that some organic industry proponents might recommend “boiling asparagus in human urine.”

I'm sure I do not have to tell readers of this periodical that the vast majority of organic farmers today are professional, multigenerational agricultural producers, not some kind of fringe kooks or profiteers. Organics has offered an opportunity to produce a higher quality product and be compensated accordingly in the marketplace.

The news about organics is all good. The Hudson Institute, with heavy funding from the agrochemical and biotechnology industry, including Monsanto and DuPont, can't stand that consumers are voting in the marketplace for a model of agricultural production that leaves their corporate master's bloated, farmer-derived profits behind.

Mark Alan Kastel
Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute

kastel@cornucopia.org