Awareness of GM foods increasing, while overall support slipping

Most Americans are unaware that they are already eating genetically modified (GM) foods, although awareness of GM foods is growing. This, according to a nationwide telephone survey of 1,200 randomly selected Americans, released on October 15 by the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers' Cook College. The study also found that while Americans seem to know more about genetic modification than most Europeans, American's overall knowledge about both GM foods and food production is relatively low.

Estimates suggest that as much as 80% of processed food in the United States may contain a component from a genetically modified crop, such as: corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup, canola oil, soybean oil, soy flour, lecithin, or cotton-seed oil. Genetic modification involves the transfer of genes from one plant or animal to another with the purpose of expressing a desired trait, such as protecting the plant from insects or increasing productivity.

Despite the abundance of products with genetically modified ingredients in the American marketplace today, the Food Policy Institute (FPI) study found that only about half of the respondents (52%) were aware that genetically modified food products are currently for sale in supermarkets. Although this represents an increase in awareness since 2001, when a similar FPI study found that only 41% of respondents knew that GM foods were available in supermarkets, awareness remains low. Perhaps more strikingly, only 26% of Americans believe they have ever eaten GM foods, though this represents a 6% increase since 2001.

"Most Americans have no idea that foods with genetically modified ingredients are already for sale in the United States," says Dr. William Hallman, Associate Director of the Food Biotechnology Program at the Food Policy Institute and lead author on the study. "But bottom line, if you eat processed foods, you're probably eating GM ingredients."

One reason Americans may be unaware of the prese

Contact: Bethany Rocque-Romaine
732-932-9000 x558
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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