Food Biotechnology: A Study Of U.S. Consumer Attitudinal Trends
According to this survey commissioned by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), the U.S. public’s opinion about food biotechnology remains relatively stable despite a year of media focus on food concerns. Overall confidence in the food supply was high, with 69% indicating they were “very” or “somewhat” confident in the food supply, comparable to the 72% response in the previous year.
This 12th in a series (1997-2007) of quantitative assessments of consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology showed that despite a year of media focus on food concerns, consumers perception of food biotechnology remained relatively stable, suggesting that if processes are FDA-approved, consumers are growing less wary of animal biotechnology in particular.
Awareness and perceptions of plant biotechnology are stable, and concerns about usage in food product are low.
- Three-quarters of consumers have heard “a little” about food biotechnology, though 23% believe that these foods are currently available.
- 33% believe food biotech will be beneficial to them and their families within five years, especially with respect to nutrition and health.
Awareness of animal biotech stabilized in 2007 after declines in the two previous years. Confidence and attitudes have improved over the past year.
- Fewer Americans have positive perceptions of animal biotech (though this number is on the rise) when compared with plant biotech.
- 24% view animal biotech favorably, compared to 19%, the previous year.
- 53% are neutral and do not know enough to have an opinion.
- Similar to the previous year, about two-thirds of consumers are positive about the benefits of animal biotech with respect to quality and safety of food.
- More than half of respondents positively reacted to farm efficiencies to increase the amount of food produced or decrease the amount of feed needed by animals.
- 35% have a favorable view of “genetic engineering” which is unchanged from the previous year.
- 22% have a favorable view of “animal cloning,” up from the previous year of 16%. However, the majority (50%) felt unfavorably, while 28% were neutral.
- If the FDA determined that foods from cloned animals were safe, the segment favorable to the process would jump to 46%.
- 25% of consumers are favorable toward the use of cloned animals for breeding, with 49% likely to purchase foods from the offspring of cloned animals if FDA safety determinations were offered.
Consumer confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply is high, but the segment who is “very” confident has declined.
- 10% feel they are “not confident” in the safety of the U.S. food supply, while 15% are “very confident” (down from 21% in 2006).
- Disease/contamination, food handling, and food sources are the greatest areas of concern.
- 60% avoid some type of food or food ingredient, with sugar/carbohydrates and fats/oils/cholesterol being the most frequently mentioned choices. Biotech foods were stated by less than 1%.
- Consumers are generally satisfied with current food labels. 16% want more information to be added, with less than 1% mentioned biotechnology specifically. 61% “support” current biotech labeling regulations while 24% are neutral on the subject.