Consumers more educated, but concerned, about G.M.O.s

by Monica Watrous
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G.M.O. and non-G.M.O. labels
Food and beverage manufacturers have opportunity to inform consumers about benefits of bioengineered ingredients.

CHICAGO — Consumers are more educated about the benefits of bioengineered ingredients in food production, but many remain concerned about them, according to new research from The NPD Group.

Just over a third of Americans have little or no awareness of genetically modified organisms, down from more than half in 2013. While more recognize the role of G.M.O.s in producing better and more resilient crops, bioengineered ingredients have become the fastest growing food additive concern as consumers increasingly prefer foods perceived as authentic and real, NPD said.

News coverage and social media may be fueling these fears, but food and beverage manufacturers have the opportunity to educate consumers about the benefits of G.M.O.s, said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group.

Darren Seifer, The NPD Group
Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group

“With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use G.M.O.s and how their use benefits their customers,” Mr. Seifer said. “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.”

Additionally, only 11% of consumers are aware that a federal G.M.O. labeling law was passed in 2016. The law will require mandatory disclosure of foods and beverages containing bioengineered ingredients on packaging, either by text, a symbol or an electronic code readable by a smartphone (QR code). Consumers, who already rely on packaging as a guide in determining whether a product contains G.M.O.s, prefer on-package labeling over using a QR code, NPD said. 
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