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FDA’s biotech foods’ labeling policy still receives strong support

May 30, 2014

While the debate goes on as states debate mandatory labeling of foods produced through biotechnology, a significant majority of consumers support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology, according to the 2014 International Food Information Council (IFIC) “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” survey.

Many also report they are likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology for certain benefits, such as nutrition. The survey has consistently shown for more than 16 years that, when made aware of the health and agronomic benefits of food biotechnology, most Americans are receptive, indicating that accurate information about the technology is important to promoting informed food choices.

Americans’ general satisfaction with current food labels remains high, according to the report, as 74% of consumers indicated they couldn’t think of any additional information they’d like added to food labels. Among all survey respondents, 8% wanted additional nutritional information, 5% wanted more ingredient information and only 4% wanted information about biotechnology or related terms, which is low, especially given how much attention state labeling efforts have received.

The IFIC says that consistent with previous years, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers support the FDA’s current labeling policy for foods produced using biotechnology, which calls for labeling only when biotechnology substantially changes the food’s nutritional content or composition, or when a potential safety issue (such as a food allergen) is identified. But there is a slight increase in consumers indicating opposition to the policy (19%) compared to 2012 (14%).

“Years of legislation, ballot measures and mischaracterization of food biotechnology have not affected overall support of FDA’s biotech labeling policy,” says IFIC president and CEO David Schmidt. “However, they have likely played a role in the modest increase we’re seeing in those who oppose it.”

The 2014 survey also found that awareness of sustainability in food production remains relatively high, with 57% who have heard or read something about sustainability in food production. Millennials have a higher awareness of sustainability (61%) than other age groups. More information and an executive survey summary are available at www.foodinsight.org.