business news in context, analysis with attitude

A new report issued by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology suggests that there is increased acceptance among Americans of genetically modified foods, as well as a feeling that significant federal regulation of GMOs needs to be in place.

In 2004, according to the report, 30 percent of consumers said that GM foods are "basically safe" (up from 29 percent in 2001 and 27 percent in 2003), while 27 percent say that they are "basically unsafe" (up from 25 percent in both 2001 and 2003). However, opposition to "introducing genetically modified foods into the US food supply" has declined from 58 percent in 2001 to 47 percent today, an 11-point decrease.

Consumers' attitudes about the safety of GM improve significantly when informed that they are already consuming foods developed through biotechnology, indicating that attitudes remain open to change in the light of new information. However, the level of awareness about GM foods remains low, with only 32 percent of consumers reporting that they heard a great deal or some about genetically modified foods in 2004, a 12-point decline since 2001.

Of the 40 percent of Americans who reported hearing about regulations for GM foods, 8 percent said there was "too much" regulation of GM foods, 19 percent say there was the right amount of regulation, and a 40 percent plurality said there is "too little" regulation of GM foods. That represents a five-point increase in the percentage of Americans saying there was "too little" regulation since 2003 (from 35 percent to 40 percent) and a two-point decrease in the percentage saying there was "too much" (from 10 percent to eight percent). Consumers favor the present policy of removing "unsafe" GM foods from the market (85 percent), but favored equally strongly that regulators should ensure that GM foods are safe before they come to market (85 percent). Indeed, a large majority of consumers (81 percent) believed that FDA should approve the safety of GM foods before they come to market, even if there would be "substantial delays".
KC's View:
In essence, what we think Americans are saying is that they want to be intelligent about the purchase and consumption of GM foods, and expect the federal government to behave the same way.