Survey finds support for FDA biotech foods labeling
Despite public controversy as states debate mandatory labeling of foods produced through biotechnology, a significant majority of consumers support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology, according to the 2014 International Food Information Council (IFIC) “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” Survey.
Many also report they are likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology for certain benefits such as nutrition. The survey has consistently shown for more than 16 years that, when made aware of the health and agronomic benefits of food biotechnology, most Americans are receptive, indicating that accurate information about the technology is important to promoting informed food choices.
Americans’ general satisfaction with current food labels remains high. Seventy-four percent of consumers could not think of any additional information that they would like added to food labels. Among all survey respondents, 8 percent wanted additional nutritional information, 5 percent wanted more ingredient information, and only 4 percent wanted information about biotechnology or related terms, which is low, especially given how much attention state labeling efforts have received.
Consistent with previous years, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of consumers support the FDA’s current labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology, which calls for labeling only when biotechnology substantially changes the food’s nutritional content or composition, or when a potential safety issue (such as a food allergen) is identified. However, there is a slight increase in consumers indicating opposition to the policy (19 percent) compared to 2012 (14 percent).
“Years of legislation, ballot measures, and mischaracterization of food biotechnology have not affected overall support of FDA’s biotech labeling policy,” said IFIC President and CEO David Schmidt. “However, they have likely played a role in the modest increase we’re seeing in those who oppose it.”
Perceptions of Food Biotechnology
The majority of Americans, 71 percent, have some awareness of plant biotechnology. Twenty-eight percent are favorable toward plant biotechnology, with significantly more consumers this year (28 percent) reporting being unfavorable than in 2012 (20 percent). However, 43 percent of consumers are neutral or say they don’t know enough to form an opinion. Interestingly, Millennials (ages 18-34) have significantly more favorable impressions of food biotechnology – with nearly four in ten (38 percent) being favorable – compared to one-quarter of consumers ages 35-54 (25 percent) and 55 and older (24 percent).