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.
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% wanted additional nutritional information, 5% wanted more ingredient information, and only 4% wanted information about biotechnology or related terms.
Consistent with previous years, nearly two-thirds (63%) 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%) compared to 14% in 2012.
“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.”
The majority of consumers say they would be likely to purchase foods modified by biotechnology for various nutrition and health-related benefits. Seventy-two percent would be likely to purchase food products made with oils that were modified by biotechnology to provide more healthful fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. More than two-thirds of Americans say they would be likely to purchase foods improved with biotechnology to reduce the potential for carcinogens (69%), be protected from insect damage and require fewer pesticide applications (69%), enhance nutritional benefits (67%), and eliminate the trans fat content in foods (67%).