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Consumers Know More About GMOs, Still Have Concerns: NPD Group

U.S. consumers now know more about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the advantages of using them to produce food, but many still have concerns about them, according to research from The NPD Group.

While more than half of consumers in 2013 had little to no awareness of GMOs, that percentage has declined to a little more than a third. As awareness increases, more consumers recognize that GMOs can help produce better, more resilient crops, but many are still worried about ingesting them, making GMOs the fastest-growing food additive concern, NPD found.

TV news coverage and social media have both informed consumers about the benefits of using GMOs and fueled fears. Of those consumers aware of and concerned about GMOs, their worries center on food safety and their interest in eating foods they perceive as authentic and “real,” according to the NPD report “Navigating GMOs for Success,” which examines how genetically modified foods or beverages affect grocery shopping and consumption habits. The aware and concerned consumers tend to make healthy choices when shopping for food, purchasing products specialty grocers, produce stores and other grocery channels, as well as at traditional grocery stores.

Although awareness of GMOs is on the rise, few consumers – just 11 percent – are aware that a federal GMO labeling law was passed in 2016. The law, which will go into effect in 2018, gives manufacturers the option of disclosing whether their food products include genetically modified ingredients by words on the label, a symbol on the label or a QR code readable by a smartphone. Consumers, who already depend on packaging as a guide to determine whether a product contains GMOs prefer on-package labeling over QR codes, NPD found..

With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMOs and how their use benefits their customers,” noted Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at Chicago-based NPD. “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.”

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