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ARTICLE: Surprise! Shoppers Are Confused About Food And GMOs

The following is an excerpt of an opinion piece on by Phil Lempert explaining consumer confusion about the labeling of food that contain ingredients from genetically engineered crops. 

Two new surveys come to the same conclusion: The average American shopper is clueless when it comes to having an understanding of what is a genetically modified organism (GMO).

A new nationally representative Food Literacy and Engagement Poll ― which is part of [email protected], a new initiative based in Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources ― finds more than one-third of Americans do not know that foods with no genetically modified ingredients contain genes. Forty-six percent of poll respondents either don’t know whether they consume GMOs or believe they rarely or never do. The other major surprise in the survey is that most of the people who stated this incorrect answer were young and affluent, and described themselves as having a higher-than-average understanding of the global food system.

Boy, are we in trouble.

Another study that was conducted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Purdue University and was just published in the journal Applied Economics: Perspectives and Policy was designed to examine just how much shoppers might pay for non-GMO foods. The researchers found that “consumers are also confused between food labeled as 'organic' and 'non-genetically modified.'"

While the study, a national survey of 1,132 respondents, found that respondents would pay 35 cents more for apples that were labeled "Non-GMO Project" and 40 cents more for those labeled "USDA Organic," there was a frightening finding: When it came to granola bars, the same respondents were willing to pay 35 cents more for a box of 12 bars that were labeled "Non-GMO Project" and 9 cents more for a box marked "USDA Organic."

As the University of Florida wrote about the study, "genetically modified material is not allowed in food labeled 'USDA Organic,' while 'Non-GMO Project' means the food has no more than 0.9% GM characteristics."

While one could argue the sample size is small, it points out that people don’t read labels carefully and may not be able to distinguish between labels.

To read the entire article, please visit