Given the levels of obesity in the U.S., it can’t be easy to create foods that Americans are unwilling to eat. Yet, genetically modified (GM) foods have achieved that status. In polling fielded by The Mellman Group for the Pew Initiative on Agriculture and Biotechnology, a majority of adults said they’re unlikely to eat such foods (see the chart). Women are especially wary of GM foods. Thirty percent said they’re likely to eat the stuff, while 61 percent said they’re unlikely to do so. (Women, ever the enemies of progress!) Among men, the split was 47 percent “likely” to 46 percent “unlikely.” The number of people who doubt they’ll eat GM foods is far higher than the number who believe such foods are unsafe: 29 percent hold that opinion, while 34 percent think they’re safe and the rest said they don’t know or declined to respond. Opinions shifted when respondents were told that “more than half of processed products at the grocery store are produced using some form of biotechnology or genetic modification.” (In other words, you’ve already eaten the stuff and lived to tell the tale.) Asked to assess GM foods in the light of that knowledge, people were more likely to deem them safe (45 percent) than unsafe (29 percent). The irony is that the food industry has resisted labeling that would disclose GM content. If people knew how common such food is, they’d likely be less wary of it. Anyhow, the proportion who favor introducing GM products into the U.S. food supply has been stable in the past five years, hovering just above one-quarter. The number who say they oppose this development has drifted downward—from 58 percent in 2001 to 46 percent in the new survey.
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