International council determines consumers support modern agriculture, biotechnology in food
In the 16th year of their Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology survey, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) noted a number of positive consumer opinions related to modern agriculture and technology.
“As an overview of the key findings, we found that confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply is consistently high,” said Lindsey Loving, senior director of Food Ingredients and Technology at IFIC. “Consumers have a positive view of modern agriculture and believe biotechnology can play a role in improving multiple aspects of sustainability.”
Additionally, Loving said that the majority of Americans support the Food and Drug Administration’s policy on food biotechnology during a press conference on May 28.
Consumers are also aware of the presence of biotechnology in food and produce in grocery stores, though millenials and mothers continually differ from the general populations.
“We see that confidence in the U.S. food supply remains consistently high over a number of years of this survey, at 67 percent confident versus 14 percent not confident and 19 percent neutral,” Loving commented.
Consumers continue to be concerned about disease and contamination, food handling and safety concerns.
“We also see just over half of respondents avoided certain food and ingredients,” she continued. “In general, this is consistent with previous years.”
With a continued focus on healthy living, consumers reported that they avoided sugars and carbs, as well as fats, oils and cholesterol.
Weight management and health concerns were cited as the reason for avoiding food products and ingredients.
Approximately 25 percent of survey respondents noted that they would like additional information on food labels.
“When asked what types of information would be helpful, responses included nutritional information, ingredient information, biotechnology information and source and processing data,” Loving said. “Comparatively, when we look at interest in adding information to the label among moms, we see that four of 10 said they want more information on the label.”
While moms want similar information to the general public, a greater percentage of mothers desire additional information compared to non-mothers.
“The majority of Americans say they have a positive view of modern agriculture,” Loving said. “In the survey, we specified that modern agriculture includes conventional farming using modern tools and equipment.”
More than seven of 10 consumers agree that modern agriculture can be sustainable, produce high quality, nutritious and safe food.
However, only 52 percent of respondents said they believe that farms are still family run.
As a major component of modern agriculture, most Americans have heard at least a little information about food biotechnology.
“Only one in 10 have heard or read a lot about the technology,” Loving said. “When looking at moms, awareness is higher, and twice as many moms – 18 percent – report having heard or read a lot about biotechnology.”
Just over one-quarter of consumers are favorable to very favorable towards biotechnology, with the millennial populations more likely to accept the technology.
One-third of consumers recognize that food produced with biotechnology is currently available in supermarkets, showing a significant increase from 2012.
When looking at biotechnology, consumers are interested in the nutrition and health-related aspects of food biotechnology.
“We see that three-quarters of Americans are likely to purchase food modified to provide more healthful fats, like Omega-3s,” said Loving, “as well as biotechnology to reduce carcinogens, insect damage and to require fewer pesticides.”
Sustainability also remains on top of consumers’ minds.
“More than half of consumers have some awareness of sustainability in food production, which is consistent with the previous year and significantly greater than in 2008,” Loving commented. “Two-thirds of Americans say it is important that their food is produced sustainably.”
A greater percentage of millenials – 76 percent – say it is important that food is produced sustainably.
Consumers include conservation of the natural habitat, affordable food and sufficient food as primary reasons for sustainability concerns.