Today, slightly more than a third of U.S. consumers have little or no awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a significant NPD logoimprovement from 2013, when more than half fell into that category, reports The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based global information company. 

But as awareness grows, so does concern. The NPD Group’s research reveals that as more consumers recognize that GMOs have benefits in producing better and more resilient crops, such awareness comes with worries about consuming GMOs. As a result, GMOs have become the fastest growing food additive concern, NPD Group says. 

NPD’s report, Navigating GMOs for Success, explores how genetically modified foods or beverages impact grocery shopping and consumption habits. It points out that TV news coverage and social media have informed consumers about GMOs and the subsequent benefits. However, those same channels have also fueled fears.  As a result, consumers’ interest in eating foods that are authentic and “real” has grown.

These same aware-and-concerned consumers tend to make healthy choices when grocery shopping and shop at specialty grocers, produce stores and other grocery channels in addition to traditional grocery stores, the report finds.

Although awareness of GMOs is increasing, few consumers (11 percent) realize that a federal GMO labeling law was passed in 2016, the NPD study points out. The law, which goes into effect in 2018, provides manufacturers with options of how they can inform consumers about GMOs in foods and beverages; be it either by words on the label, a symbol on the label or an electronic code readable by a smartphone (QR code).

Consumers, who are already relying on the packaging as a guide to determine if a product was made using GMOs, prefer on-package labeling versus using the QR code, NPD reports.

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,” says Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “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. “