ABC News Poll--Most Americans Believe GE Foods Are Unsafe

ABC News Poll--Most Americans Believe
GE Foods Are Unsafe

Wednesday June 20 02:39 PM EDT

Poll: Skepticism of Genetically Modified Foods
By Analysis
By Gary Langer <>

Genetically modified food is viewed as unsafe by most, and the public wants
warning labels on food, a new poll finds.

Barely more than a third of the public believes that genetically modified
foods are safe to eat. Instead 52 percent believe such foods are unsafe, and
an additional 13 percent are unsure about them. That's broad doubt on the
very basic issue of food safety.

Perception of Genetically Modified Foods

Safe Unsafe No opinion
35% 52% 13%

Nearly everyone, moreover < 93 percent < says the federal government should
require labels on food saying whether it's been genetically modified, or
"bio-engineered" (this poll used both phrases). Such near-unanimity in
public opinion is rare.

Fifty-seven percent also say they'd be less likely to buy foods labeled as
genetically modified. That puts the food industry in a quandary: By meeting
consumer demand for labeling, it would be steering business away from its
genetically modified products.

The image problem of genetically modified food is underscored by contrast to
organic foods. While only five percent of Americans say they'd be more
likely to buy a food labeled as genetically modified, 52 percent say they'd
be more likely to buy food that's labeled as having been raised organically.

Organic Advantage

Food labeled: More likely to buy Less likely to buy No difference
Genetically modified 5% 57% 34%
Organically raised 52% 10% 36%

Genetically modified foods are particularly unpopular among women, another
problem for food producers since so many women do the family shopping.

Sixty-two percent of women think genetically modified foods are unsafe to
eat, a view that's shared by far fewer men, 40 percent. Indeed a plurality
of men think these foods are safe, while women disagree by better than 2-1.

Similarly, while 49 percent of men say they'd be less likely to buy food
labeled as genetically modified, that jumps to 65 percent of women. (Similar
numbers of women and men say they're more likely to buy organic foods.)

There's also a distinction by age; people under 45 are about 10 points more
likely than their elders to think genetically modified foods are safe to
eat. But a bare majority of young adults still calls genetically modified
foods unsafe.

There's also a political difference. Republicans divide evenly on whether
genetically modified foods are safe or unsafe. Independents rate them unsafe
by a 20-point margin; Democrats, by a 26-point margin.

What's at Issue

This poll, conducted for by telephone among a random sample of
adults across the country, described genetic engineering as a process by
which "scientists can change the genes in some food crops and farm animals
to make them grow faster or bigger and be more resistant to bugs, weeds and
disease." Organic foods were described as raised "without the use of
pesticides, chemical fertilizers or feed additives."

Genetic modification of foods has been in development since the 1980s,
inciting heated argument pro and con. A variety of genetically modified
crops has been approved by the FDA (news - web sites) for general use, and
it's reviewing an application to market genetically modified fish.

The FDA has said labeling isn't necessary because there's no evidence
genetic engineering changes a food's quality, safety, "or any other
attribute." In a report late last year, the American Medical Association
also said there was "no scientific justification for special labeling of
genetically modified foods, as a class."

Starlink, a genetically modified corn that is approved for use in animal
feed but not for human consumption, made its way into human foods last year.
The government reported last week that Starlink did not cause allergic
reactions in people who reported health problems after eating it.


This survey was conducted by telephone June 13-17, among a
random national sample of 1,024 adults. The results have a three-point
margin of error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS Intersearch
of Horsham, Pa.

Previous ABCNEWS polls can be found in our Poll Vault.

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