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Article | June 30, 2001
Survey shows mixed feelings on GE foods
An in-depth survey by the Center for Science in the Public Interest of consumer views on labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods showed broad but limited support for labeling and demonstrated the difficulties of ensuring fairness in labeling.
Some 62% to 70% of consumers wanted GE foods labeled but half those people said they would pay nothing or just $10 a year for that labeling. Support for GE labeling diminished if only a minor ingredient in the product came from GE crops.
But 76% of consumers wanted labeling of foods made from crops sprayed with pesticides 53% wanted labels to disclose whether farmers used practices that caused soil erosion and 40% wanted labels on products containing cross-bred corn.
A survey finding worrisome for some food manufacturers is that about 31% of those surveyed believed that products labeled as GE were not as safe as non-GE foods and about the same percentage believed that foods with labels stating the product did not contain GE ingredients were safer than nonlabeled products. Only about 10% said the GE products were safer or better and 33% to 42% said GE and non-GE products were equally safe or good.
About 40% of consumers said they would buy foods made with GE ingredients about the same number as those who said they would buy foods whose labels said they were made with cross-bred corn which have been common for decades. Given a choice between GE and non-GE foods only 7% said they would choose the GE food compared with 52% who would pick the non-GE food.
“Those of us who favor labeling of engineered foods will have to work hard to design a system that will be not only accurate but also non-disparaging and value-free” said Greg Jaffe co-director of CSPI’s project on biotechnology. “Many consumers would interpret GE food labels as casting doubt on the safety of foods even though to date scientists have found no problems. A GE label should not be seen as a black mark especially when GE crops appear to be having such environmental benefits as reduced use of chemical pesticides and likely reduced soil erosion.”
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