The Pew Research Center recently released its findings from a new report called The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science, which largely focused on Americans’ perceptions of organic and genetically-modified foods (GMOs).
It surveyed 1,500 nationally representative adults (whatever that means), and I found the data to be both encouraging and worrisome.
Here is a recap of some of the most notable findings from the Pew Research Report:
- 81% of those who care a great deal about the issue of genetically-modified foods think organic produce is healthier than other conventionally grown foods and 76% of these people eat mostly or all organic.
- More than half (55%) of the public says that organic fruits and vegetables are better for one’s health than conventionally-grown produce.
- About one-in-six (16%) Americans care a great deal about the issue of GM foods. These more deeply concerned Americans predominantly believe GM foods pose health risks.
- About half of Americans (48%) say the health effects of GM foods are no different than other foods
- About half (48%) of those ages 18 to 29 say GM foods are worse for one’s health than non-GM foods; In comparison, roughly three-in-ten (29%) of those ages 65 and older say the same.
- Women are more likely to care about GMOs than men.
- About half of Americans see no difference between GM and other foods, while a sizable minority say GM foods are a health risk
- About three-in-ten Americans do not care too much (31%) and 15% do not care at all about the GM foods issue.
- Most of the public expects GM foods to increase the global food supply. One-quarter say this is very likely and an additional 44% say this is fairly likely.
AWARENESS / MEDIA
- Just 6% of Americans say they follow news about GM foods very closely. Some 65% do not follow news about GM foods at all or not too closely, and another 28% say they follow such news somewhat closely.
- Four-in-ten Americans (40%) say the news media does not take the health risks of GM foods seriously enough.
- 43% of U.S. adults say the news media give skeptics of the safety of GMOs too little attention.
- About one-in-five (19%) Americans have heard “nothing at all” about GM foods.
REASONS FOR BUYING
- Roughly seven-in-ten (72%) U.S. adults say whether or not they buy organic foods depends on the price compared to conventionally grown foods.
- Among those who bought organic foods in the past month, 76% say a reason was to get healthier foods. Fewer say that either convenience (22%) or environmental concerns (33%) were reasons for their purchases of organic foods.
DON’T TRUST SCIENTISTS
- A minority of 35% say they trust scientists a lot to give full and accurate information about the health effects of eating GM foods.
- Perceptions that researchers’ career interests influence the research findings are similar; 30% say such motivations influence the research most of the time and 48% say this occurs some of the time.
And here is how I interpret the findings.
I’m encouraged by:
- Millennials seem to know the truth about GMOs. They are not buying into what the massive GMO propaganda machine is selling and clearly believe that GMOs pose real risks, to both human and environmental health.
- A majority of people do not trust scientists when it comes to giving full and accurate information about the health effects of consuming GMOs. It is a sad commentary that I’m encouraged by this but as we have seen from recently released emails, academics are working very closely with Monsanto to promote the GMO agenda.
I’m not surprised by:
- Americans have a poor perception of the media, in terms of its efforts to highlight the health risks and safety of GMOs. Big Food and Big Ag are very powerful forces, and these are two industries that the mainstream media does not want to upset —> advertising dollars.
- Only 6% of people follow news about GMOs closely. Those of us who write about organic and GMOs need to do a better job. Either that or people need to start caring more.
- More than half of people think organic produce is better than conventionally-grown. The growth numbers of organic fruits and vegetables are very strong and back up this figure.
- Women caring more about GMOs than men. I wish men cared more, but I encounter this apathy all of the time.
- Americans continue to believe that GMOs are going to increase the food supply — because of higher yields. This is the Kool-Aid that the GMO industry is serving to the public, and people are drinking it. The false promise of higher yields was debunked in a recent New York Times article and in a seminal report from the Union of Concerned Scientists called A Failure to Yield.
I’m concerned that:
- Purchasing of organic food is still so heavily driven by price concerns. The environmental and social impact of pesticide-laden (conventional) food needs to be considered much, much more.
- Far too many people – nearly 20% – don’t know what GMOs are and have heard nothing about them. This is incredibly troubling.
Bottom line: Millennials have a good sense of what is going on but overall, there is a lot of education that needs to be done about the health risks of GMOs, which includes the super-toxic pesticides sprayed on them. The awareness level is still not there. And with the mainstream media refusing to adequately take up this topic, many people will continue to live in the dark about the risks of GMOs.
We have a lot of work ahead of us.
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