NEW YORK, N.Y. – The presence and labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food has been hotly debated by consumers, manufacturers, scientists, and governments alike. A new Harris Poll reveals consumers’ awareness of and perspectives on GMO labeling.
Nearly six in 10 Americans (58%) say they’re familiar with the GMO debate, with 15% very familiar and 43% somewhat familiar.
The GMO debate has led to many questions on the topic. Are GMOs bad for us? Should labeling be mandatory on food that contains them? A majority of consumers believe there are simply too many unknowns about their long term impact. Given these unknowns, the debate evokes strong emotions, making the more scientific industry position harder to convey.
Recent state ballot initiatives in support of GMO labeling have created a patchwork of laws and challenges for food manufacturers, however, supporters believe enforcement of regulations should come from the federal government.
“This response from the public makes one thing clear: consumers are ripe to support regulations requiring the labeling of GMOs. Food manufacturers would be wise to deepen their understanding of how these attitudes could impact their business and what they can do to limit the risk to their reputation and license to operate,” says Sarah Simmons, Vice President & Sr. Consultant, Reputation Management & Public Affairs Practice at The Harris Poll.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,015 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 29 and May 3, 2016.
What’s behind consumers’ concerns
Most Americans say labeling products containing GMOs is a health and safety issue (81%), not an environmental one (19%). Additionally, the real worry is the unknown: the majority (58%) agreed that because there have been no long term studies, we simply don’t know the impact on human health, pesticide use, or growth of super weeds/superbugs.
GMO labeling receives strong support
Overall, 75% are in support of GMO labeling legislation and 78% of supporters feel it should be mandated by the federal government as opposed to the state government.
When looking specifically at GMO labeling, a large majority (80%) agree that there should be mandatory GMO labeling as consumers have a right to know what is in their food or whether it has been altered or changed in some way that is not natural and could impact consumer health.
This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 29 and May 3, 2016 among 2,015 adults. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.
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The Harris Poll® #40, May 25, 2016
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll
About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly.
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