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CHICAGO — U.S. consumers are now more informed about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the benefits of their use in producing food, but many still have concerns about them, according to The NPD Group.
In 2013, more than half of consumers had little to no awareness of GMOs, and that percentage has shrunk to just over a third. As awareness grows, more consumers recognize that GMOs have benefits in producing better and more resilient crops, but for many of those aware, the benefits don't outweigh their worry.
This makes GMOs the fastest growing food additive concern, the research firm said.
TV news coverage and social media have both informed consumers about GMOs and their benefits and fueled fears of GMOs. The worries of consumers who are aware of and concerned about GMOs are centered around food safety and their interest in eating foods that are authentic and "real," according to the NPD report Navigating GMOs for Success, which explores how genetically modified foods or beverages impact grocery shopping and consumption habits.
Aware and concerned consumers tend to make healthy choices when doing grocery shopping and shop at specialty grocers, produce stores, and other grocery channels in addition to traditional grocery stores, NPD added.
"With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would benefit hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMOs and how their use benefits their customers," said Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. "They want to know about what happened to the product before it reached the shelf in areas such as country of origin, corporate responsibility, allergens, and other health information. Consumers today want to be informed and appreciate it when food companies make the effort to educate them."
Although awareness of GMOs is increasing, just 11 percent are aware that a federal GMO labeling law was passed this year. The law, which takes effect in 2018, gives manufacturers the option of showing if their foods and beverages include genetically modified ingredients through words or a symbol on the label, or an electronic QR code.
Consumers, who already rely on the packaging as a guide to determine if a product was made using GMOs, prefer on-package labeling over using a QR code, NPD found.