Navigating the Grocery Store Aisle

healthiness, in both groups, the perception of the health benefits of organic relative to conventional had decreased.

Similarly, in 2016, 76% of those who cared about GMOs chose to eat organic food, while 75% of those who did not care also did not eat organic products. In general, it would appear that while few people state significant interest in genetic modification, those who do have such interest view the issue rather stridently. Also, there was little overall interest in seeking information about GMO foods; in 2018, only 29% of adults stated they had heard or read a lot about GMO foods; 58% had read a little; and 13% had read nothing at all. The 2016 survey results included a demographic breakdown, and respondents who were male, older, and had lower incomes and educational achievement were less likely to care about the issue of GMO foods. In addition, those who cared about GMO foods were more likely to be vegan/vegetarian (21%) relative to those who did not care much (6%); national trends are that 6% of the population describe themselves as vegetarian and 3% as vegan The 2018 wave of the survey asked respondents about their beliefs about the impact of GMO foods on public health, the environment, and the supply and affordability of food. Americans generally hold positive views of how GMO foods will affect the global supply of food (76% believe it is very or fairly likely to increase [2] ) and food prices (63% believe genetic modification is very or fairly likely to lead to more affordably priced foods [3] ). While only 49% of Americans thought that GMO foods were worse for one’s health, 59% think they will likely lead to health problems for the population as a whole, whi le 56% believe there will be environmental problems. From the 2018 data, there appears to be a distinction between negative impacts (population health and environmental problems) and positive impacts (increased food supply and affordability). Of those who believe GMO foods are worse for one’s health, 40% think they will very likely lead to population health problems, and 34% believe they will very likely lead to environmental problems (compared to 6% and 8%, respectively, of those who believe GMO foods are neither better nor worse). However, there is a much weaker relationship between views on the impact of GMO food on one’s health and positive impacts; 26% of those who believe GMO foods are worse for one’s health expect we are very likely to see increased supply, and 24% anticipate affordable pricing (relative to 34% and 26%, respectively, of those who believe they are neither more nor less healthy). It would appear that the general population holds similar views on the positive effects of GMO foods, while negative views are held more strongly by those who view GMO foods as bad for one’s health. Thus, correcting misinformation must address the perceived negative, rather than positive, attributes. The 2018 wave also demonstrated that science knowledge plays a role in the perception of potential impacts. Relative to those with low science knowledge, respondents with high science knowledge were less likely to believe GMO foods would lead to population health problems (16% vs 27%), less likely to think that they would lead to environmental problems (19% vs 26), more likely to believe they would increase the global food supply (49% vs 20%), and more likely to think they would improve affordability (37% vs 19%). There were also gender differences, as women were more likely than men to believe GMO foods would lead to health (30% vs 17%) and environmental problems (27% vs 16%). Conversely, men were more likely than women to think that GMO foods will increase the food supply (37% vs 26%) and improve affordability (28% vs 22%).


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