According to a recently released study by Pew Research Center, consumers have varying attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) ingredients and additives. Roughly half of Americans (51 percent) say the average person faces a serious health risk from food additives over their lifetime, while the other half (48 percent) believes the average person is exposed to potentially threatening additives in such small amounts that there is no serious risk.
The nationally representative survey of 2,537 U.S. adults finds that seven-in-10 Americans believe science has a mostly positive effect on the quality of food. But when asked about one area where new developments in biotechnology are changing the possibilities for how food are grown and consumed, 49 percent believe that foods with GM ingredients are worse for one’s health than non-GM foods, and 44 percent say such foods are neither better nor worse.
The 22 percent of Americans who care a great deal about the GM foods issue stand out as not only much more likely to think GM foods are worse for one’s health than those who are less concerned, but also more likely to see a higher health risk from eating food produced with common agricultural and processing practices, including meat from animals given hormones or antibiotics, produce grown with pesticides, or foods with artificial ingredients.
The survey also found women are warier than men of food additives, as are those concerned about the GM foods. Thirty-nine percent of women say fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides pose a great deal of health risk, compared with 23 percent of men who say the same. Similarly, more women (39 percent) than men (25 percent) say meat from animals given antibiotics or hormones is a health risk for the average person.
Sixty-six percent of those who care deeply about the GM foods issue believe that meat from animals given antibiotics or hormones poses a health risk to the average person over time, versus 12 percent among those who care not too much/not at all about the GM issue (a 54-percentage-point difference). Respondents who report consuming more organics in their diet are also more likely to believe food additives pose a risk to health.
About half of Americans believe foods with GM ingredients are worse for one’s health, while 44 percent say such foods are neither better nor worse than non-GM foods and 5 percent say they are better for one’s health. The share of Americans who say that GM ingredients are worse for one’s health is up 10 percentage points, from 39 percent in 2016, with the uptick in concern primarily among those with low levels of science knowledge.
The report is drawn from a survey conducted as part of the American Trends Panel. The panel, which was created by Pew Research Center, is being managed by GfK. Data in this report are drawn from the panel wave conducted April 23-May 6, 2018, among 2,537 respondents. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.