Organic equals healthy, GM = ?

More than 6 in 10 American shoppers believe organic foods are better for their health. But, according to a new study by the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention magazine entitled “Shopping for Health 2002: Self-Care Perspectives, Volume 2: Organic Foods and Genetically Modified Foods,” many remain confused about genetically modified foods.

Some 57% of shoppers reported purchasing organic foods in the past six months or using them to help maintain their health, up from 50% in 2001. Yet less than 40% purchased the organic version of their favorite foods. Organic fruits and vegetables were the most popular, and cereals, breads, pastas, and dairy products were also favored.

“The survey reveals that an increasing number of shoppers are buying organic fruits and vegetables because they feel they are better for you,” said Martha Schumacher, research manager for Prevention. “But something is keeping them from purchasing the organic versions of other foods. Our findings suggest that price may be the leading reason. With the new organic labeling standards, shoppers will better understand what they’re buying. The proliferation of organic foods should help bring prices down to competitive levels.”

When it comes to genetically modified foods, consumers are divided and confused. Asked generally whether such foods are acceptable, 37% said yes and 46% said no. But if the question included the purpose for the genetic modification (such as pest resistance), the acceptance rate rose to 60% to 70%. A substantial majority (65%) feel scientists do not have sufficient knowledge to control the effects of genetic engineering, and 60% would like to know if the foods they eat have genetically modified components. Younger people are more accepting of GM foods, with 45% of Generation X and Y finding them acceptable, compared with 37% of Baby Boomers and 29% of older Americans.

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