According to a recent study, a shocking amount of Americans weren’t paying attention in science class. The University of Florida Food and Resource Economics Department recently surveyed 1,000 people on general awareness of genetically modified food and crops in order to assess how to create product labels. Assistant professor Brandon McFadden discovered some fairly alarming gaps in consumer knowledge, mainly that about one third of the respondents didn’t really understand DNA, which may help explain why some take one side of the GMO debate over the other.
A few survey highlights: 32 percent of respondents believe vegetables do not contain DNA, 33 percent believe that non-GM tomatoes “did not contain genes” and 80 percent support a mandatory label for food containing DNA.
Fact: Everything that was once alive contains DNA. How else could there be purple, orange and yellow carrots? What are seeds for, show?
This widespread misinformation makes creating new labels for products containing genetically modified ingredients presumably both more and less complicated. More complicated because nobody wants to feel patronized when reading a product label (i.e. “don’t use your hair-dryer in the bathtub”) and less complicated because at least researchers know what they’re working with.
“Our research indicates that the term ‘GM’ may imply to consumers that genetic modification alters the genetic structure of an organism, while other breeding techniques do not,” says McFadden, who authored the study. On the flip side, McFadden also found that those surveyed tended to change their beliefs and answers regarding the safety of modified foods during questioning without much resistance.