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The presence of genetically-modified organisms remains a hot-button issue among shoppers, as more than half of U.S. consumers express some level of concern regarding GMOs, according to recent research by The NPD Group.
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, further solidifying consumers’ general confusion about the issue.
As defined by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), genetic modification is “the production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods.”
The NPD study, “Gauging GMO Awareness and Impact,” asked consumers to tell, in their own words, what the term GMOs means. Common responses included “genetically altered,” “not natural” and many consumers said “don’t know.” Forty-four percent of consumers said 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, the increased awareness of which could also be a factor in increased levels of concern.
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,” said 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.”