GMOs: On eve of genetic disclosures on food, public is mostly confused
The nomenclature is likely to be front and center when the U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes final bioengineered food disclosure labeling standards. It’s been in the works for the past two years.
And an offshoot of the Council for Biotechnology called “GMO Answers” is out with survey results that suggest the way we’ve been talking about the subject has put the public in a state of confusion. And roughly 3 out 5 Americans just want to know more about GMOs including 74 percent who want to know more about their overall impact on health; and 67 percent who want to know more about their overall safety.
The GMO Answers survey also found 69 percent of consumers are not confident they know what GMOs are.
Between May and July, USDA collected more than 14,000 comments to the rule on the proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Congress has high hopes for the rule, wanting it to satisfy the public’s “right to know” while lessening consumer confusion.
The nomenclature, however, may be challenging the public. Having never really understood what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were, the final rule is likely to have a preference for “bioengineered,” (BE), labeling. And the rule-making does not seem to be moving a quickly as genetic engineering techniques like CRISPR and RNAi, which are seeing increased use because they push costs down.
“Despite GMOs being part of our food supply for almost a quarter of a century, and global scientific consensus on the health and safety of this technology, Americans remain as confused as ever about how GMOs impact their lives and the world around them,” said Michael Stebbins, Director of External Engagement for the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and GMO Answers spokesperson.
“That is why we at GMO Answers are committed to answering any questions about GMOs with information backed by validated, independent, and peer-reviewed science. We will continue this mission to address GMO concerns and provide the answers consumers are looking for in a transparent and easy-to-access manner.”
The GMO Answers survey found plenty to concern the sponsors. Less than a third of Americans, 32 percent, say they are comfortable with the use of GMOs in their food products, and 43 percent of consumers believe that food in general sold in the U.S. is safe for consumption, meaning there is widespread distrust as a whole when it comes to food production.
With a majority of Americans not confident they definitely know what GMOs are, and with that this lack of knowledge possibility driving overall uncertainty and discomfort, the sponsoring organization says concern and confusion do not equate to rejection, as the survey finds that nearly the same number of Americans want to learn more about GMOs.
The total sample size for the GMO Answers survey was 1,213 adults. Fieldwork was done Sept. 13 an 14. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults aged 18 and older.
In addition to the Council for Biotechnology, GMO Answers is supported by BASF, Bayer CropScience, Corteva Agriscience, and Syngenta.
“Our members are dedicated to the responsible development and application of plant biotechnology,” says GMO Answers. “The members of GMO Answers commit to five core principles – welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics; making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate, and supporting safety testing of GM products, including allowing independent safety testing of our products through validated science-based methods; supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently, with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products; respecting farmers’ rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands; and respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families.”