Surprise! Shoppers Are Confused About Food and GMOs

The Lempert Report
October 13, 2017

According to a new nationally representative Food Literacy and Engagement Poll conducted at Michigan State University more than one-third of Americans do not know that foods with no genetically modified ingredients contain genes.

The other major surprise in the survey is that most of the people who stated this incorrect answer were young and affluent, and described themselves as having a higher-than-average understanding of the global food system. Boy, are we in trouble. 

The now annual Food Literacy and Engagement Poll is part of Food@MSU, a new initiative based in Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Its mission is to listen to consumers, promote dialogue and help the public make more informed choices about food. 

The report also revealed that most of the U.S. public remains disengaged and/or misinformed about food.   

Food@MSU says that their inaugural poll reveals that the public lags far behind current scientific understanding when it comes to food. Equally troubling, Americans aren’t turning to scientists for answers. They sampled online over 1,000 Americans age 18 and over, and was adjusted to be a valid national statistical sample. The survey revealed that 48 percent of Americans say they never or rarely seek information about where their food was grown or how it was produced. 

50 percent of respondents expressed concern over the food safety.   

Forty-six percent of poll respondents either don’t know whether they consume GMOs or believe they rarely or never do. 

Just 59 percent of respondents in the survey said that they trusted information from academic scientists on nutrition and food safety. Less than half (49 percent) trusted government scientists, and only one-third (33 percent) trusted industry scientists. 

The Food Literacy and Engagement Poll is intended to provide baseline data for what Americans know about a variety of food topics. They say that a centerpiece of Food@MSU, called Our Table, will bring scientists, farmers, consumers and policy experts together to explore issues ranging from organic farming and health to GM crops and sustainability. The objective of the poll is to track public attitudes to guide research, as well as allow all of us to listen to consumers in order to help them make informed decisions about food.