Organic Consumers Association

Pesticides & Polluted Water Are Major Concerns for US Consumers

From <>


June 11, 2003
By Martha Filipic, New Farm

Mark Tucker and Sherrie Whaley, assistant professors of agricultural
communication at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center have
analyzed results of a survey of 4,014 Ohioans conducted last summer that
asked respondents to rank seven perceived risks to food safety. Pesticide
residues in food topped the list, followed by contamination of drinking
water; growth hormones in meat or milk; bacterial contamination;
bio-terrorist attacks on the food supply; mad cow disease; and genetically
modified foods.

There was very little variance between the seven concerns. The
highest-ranked concern, pesticide residues in food, averaged 5.3 on a
seven-point scale, and the lowest-ranked concern, genetically modified
foods, averaged 4.6.

Respondents also indicated they remain undecided or are severely divided on
several food safety issues. For example, 41 percent of respondents said they
aren't sure whether organic foods are safer than conventionally produced
foods, compared with 37 percent who believe they are safer and 22 percent
who believe they aren't. Also, 41 percent of people believe they have little
or no control over the safety of their food, while 40 percent believe they
do and 19 percent remain undecided.

The researchers also said their findings bolster the notion that consumers
often view food safety risks differently than scientists and other experts.
Scientists generally rate risks according to the probability that harm could
occur or the severity of impact that might result. Consumers usually rate
risks higher if they feel they have little control over them, can't avoid
them, or can't understand them easily, no matter what the probability is
that they might be harmed.

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