Biotech Updates

Study Says Americans OK with GM for Health Care, Still Wary About Food

August 30, 2017

A study conducted at Purdue University examined American attitudes toward genetic engineering in the wake of heightened coverage of the Zika virus in 2016. The study found that more than three-quarters of Americans would support the release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to decrease the risk of the virus, but less than half support the use of GM in livestock production (44%), grain production (49%), and fruit and vegetable production (48%). The two categories with the highest levels of acceptance for GM use were human medicine and human health reasons with 62% and 68% of respondents in agreement.

The results, the authors say, suggest people are more accepting of genetic modifications that benefit human health, but are more wary of those to food. "Food is an everyday choice. In some ways, I can understand why people may be more cautious about what they're ingesting on an ongoing basis," said Nicole Olynk Widmar, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. Widmar said she expected people to be more accepting of genetic modification for health and medicine.

In the case of the GM mosquitoes, coverage of companies seeking regulatory approval was all over the news. In the case of GM crops, Americans likely found out about them only after they were already a significant part of the food chain. "The perception of choice matters," Widmar said.

Findings are based on 964 Americans surveyed with a goal of selecting respondents that matched 2014 census estimates for age, gender, income, education and region of residence. The margin of error was about 3 percent, and results were published in the journal PLoS One.

For more details, read the Purdue University Agriculture News.