Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Americans are divided on whether GM foods are safe (2003)

A strong majority believes that genetically modifying food can produce benefits in the future, and thus a majority favors continued research on the development of such foods, and a strong majority rejects the argument that doing so is immoral. At the same time, though, Americans are divided on whether foods that people eat should be genetically modified now; whether genetically modified foods are safe; or whether they are a good thing. A majority says that it would avoid eating genetically modified food, but this resistance is not deep-seated, as a majority also says that it would probably buy such food if it was cheaper, tasted better or was less apt to require the use of pesticides. 

A strong majority of Americans believes genetically modified (GM) foods will provide benefits in the future. In the April 2000 Texas A&M survey, more than two in three (65%) agreed that "GM food will bring benefits to a lot of people." [1] In the June 2000 Harris survey, 66% believed it to be at least "somewhat likely" that as a result of agriculture biotechnology "agricultural production will increase." Just 29% thought that would not happen. [2]

When Americans think about the benefits of biotech foods, they primarily think of higher yields and greater agricultural productivity. When asked in the December 1999 Angus Reid/Economist survey to mention the "main benefits or advantages of genetically modified foods," the most cited responses were increased yields, productivity or efficiency (24%), improved nutritional value or health benefits (16%), and improved quality of food (13%). Importantly, nearly one in four (24%) said they could not mention any benefits of GM foods.

Divided Response to the Use of Biotechnology in Foods 

Although it appears that most Americans see potential benefits in the future and do not oppose research and development of GM foods, they are divided on the actual application of biotechnology in the food they eat in the present. A July 2005 Gallup survey found that 45% supported "the use of biotechnology in agriculture and food production" while 45% did not. This is a slight decline in support from a Gallup poll in July 2001, in which a bare majority (52%) were in support, while 38% said they were opposed. A similar result was found in an April 2000 Gallup survey, which found 51% in support and 41% opposed. [8] When asked to speculate about the risks and benefits of "developing and growing these new plants and crops" in a June 2000 Harris survey, 48% said the risks outweigh the benefits; 38% thought the benefits are greater than the risks. [9] Similarly, the May 2000 Texas A&M study found that 45% disagreed with the assertion that "the risks of GM foods are acceptable," while 39% agreed. [10] Also, in the February 2000 Angus Reid study, 48% disagreed that "in the long run, the potential benefits of genetically modified foods will outweigh the potential risks." Forty-three percent agreed with that statement. [11]
Americans are divided on whether GM foods are safe. In a July 2003 ABC News poll, respondents were told that "scientists can change the genes in some food crops and farm animals to make them grow faster or bigger and be more resistant to bugs, weeds and disease," and then were asked if such foods are or are not safe to eat. Respondents were closely divided--46% to 46%. [12] However, asked if GM foods pose a "serious health hazard to consumers"(emphasis added), a modest majority of 54% rejected the idea, while just 33% said that they do, (Gallup, July 2005). The same question was asked in July 2001, April 2000 and September 1999, with virtually identical responses. [13] Other questions that address the safety of GM food elicit more divided responses. A June 2000 Harris survey revealed that a plurality (47%) believed it "not very likely" or "not at all likely" that "food based on [GM] crops will be poisonous or cause disease in the people who eat them." Forty-five percent said they believe it is at least somewhat likely. [14] Also in April 2000, 45% rejected the assertion that "GM food could cause global disaster." Forty-one percent agreed with the statement. [15]

When offered the option of saying that they do not have enough information to make a judgment about the safety of GM foods, a plurality will choose that option, as 46% did in a January 2001 survey by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies. In that poll, 29% said they thought "genetically modified foods" are "basically safe" and 25% considered them "basically unsafe." [16]

Asked whether GM food is generally something positive or negative, the public is also divided, but leans toward a negative view. 

No comments:

Post a Comment