For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Resource Center on Genetic Engineering.
Would you eat a genetically engineered salmon? Are you even sure what the difference is between the regular variety and one that's been tweaked to grow faster?
Don't feel bad if you're unsure. Only a quarter of Americans say they fully understand what genetically engineered food is all about, according to a survey of more then 3,000 people conducted for NPR by Thomson Reuters last month.
Press people a little further by asking them if genetically engineered foods are safe, and the uncertainty climbs higher. Only 21 percent of people are convinced the foods are safe. Most are unsure — 64 percent. The remaining 15 percent think the foods aren't safe.
People who are a little older, make more money and have at least a college degree are most likely to think safety is not an issue for the foods, whose qualities have been altered by laboratory manipulation of DNA.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that a food should say on its label if it's from some genetically modified animal or plant — 9 in 10 people surveyed said so.
But that's not guaranteed. Unless there's a really important difference between the normal food and the engineered one, like, say, a change that could cause an allergic reaction in some people, U.S. regulators aren't in a position to require a label that says a food is the result of genetically alteration in the lab.
Take, for instance, the fast-growing genetically engineered salmon being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration right now. The agency has said there's no material difference between the flesh of the altered fish and the ubiquitous farm-raised Atlantic salmon in markets today. So don't look for FDA to require a special label, if it gives the fish the OK.