U.S. consumers are now more informed about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the benefits of their use in producing food, but many still have concerns about them, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Over half of consumers in 2013 had little to no awareness of GMOs and that percentage has shrunk to a little over a third. As awareness grows more consumers recognize that GMOs have benefits in producing better and more resilient crops, but for many of those aware the benefits don’t outweigh their worry, making GMOs the fastest growing food additive concern, according to new NPD Group research.
TV news coverage and social media have informed consumers about GMOS and the benefits of their use, but the same channels have also fueled fears. Of those consumers aware of and concerned about GMOs, their worries center around food safety and their interest in eating foods that are authentic and “real,” finds the NPD report entitled Navigating GMOs for Success, which explores how genetically modified foods or beverages impact grocery shopping and consumption habits. The aware and concerned consumers tend to make healthy choices when grocery shopping and shop at specialty grocers, produce stores, and other grocery channels in addition to traditional grocery stores.
Although awareness of GMOs is increasing, very few consumers (11 percent) are aware that a federal GMO labeling law was passed in 2016. The law, which goes into effect in 2018, gives manufacturers the option of showing if their foods and beverages include genetically modified ingredients - either by words on the label, a symbol on the label, or an electronic code readable by a smartphone (QR code). Consumers, who are already relying on the packaging as a guide to determine if a product was made using GMOs, prefer on-package labeling versus using the QR code, reports NPD.
“With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMOs and how their use benefits their customers,” says Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “They want to know about what happened to the product before it reached the shelf in areas such as country of origin, corporate responsibility, allergens, and other health information. Consumers today want to be informed and appreciate it when food companies make the effort to educate them.”