More than half of U.S. consumers express some level of concern about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), but when asked to describe GMOs, many primary grocery shoppers are unclear and reiterate that it’s genetically altered sometimes in a favorable way while at other times in an unfavorable way, according to recently released food market research by The NPD Group, a leading global information company.
Genetic modification is defined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “the production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods.” The NPD study entitled, Gauging GMO Awareness and Impact, asked consumers to tell, in their own words, what the term GMOs means and the answers were diverse. Common words used to describe GMOS from consumers were “genetically altered,” “not natural,” and many consumers say “don’t know.” Forty-four percent of consumers say GMOs have some kind of benefit, yet at the same time, a higher percentage has some level of concern.
The study points out GMOs are more top-of-mind with consumers because of media coverage and various states’ legislative efforts to label genetically modified foods. This increased awareness could also be a factor in increased levels of concerns about GMOs. In 2002, 43 percent of consumers expressed any level of concern about genetically-modified foods and a decade later over half of U.S. adults have some level of concern, according to NPD’s Food Safety Monitor, which continually tracks consumer awareness and concern about food safety issues and eating intentions. As far as levels of concern, less than 10 percent of adults were “very” or “extremely” concerned about GMOs in 2002, but now that concern level is at more than 20 percent of adults, and has steadily increased.
“GMO’s have been an issue for some time now,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and author of Eating Patterns in America. “We are once again seeing more American adults concerned than not. I expect the market to follow these concerns.”