International Food Information Council (IFIC) President and CEO David Schmidt testified at a U.S. House Committee on Agriculture hearing examining the costs and impacts of mandatory biotechnology labeling laws. Schmidt’s testimony focused on IFIC’s 2014 Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology Survey, with a special emphasis on consumers and labeling.
According to the research, 63 percent of survey respondents supported the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling policy when told special labeling is required only when “biotechnology’s use substantially changes the food’s nutritional content, or when a potential safety issue such as a food allergen is identified.”
“Every survey we have conducted since 1997 has found a strong majority of Americans support this FDA labeling policy,” Schmidt said.
Two-thirds of Americans said they were confident in the safety of the food supply. The food safety threats that most concern consumers, both today and in past surveys, revolve around diseases and contamination, along with food handling and preparation. When survey respondents were asked about their specific food safety concerns, “biotech” or any related term was far down the list.
Consumers were strongly positive about biotechnology when told about the nutrition and health-related benefits provided by the technology:
• 72 percent said they were likely to purchase products made with oils modified by biotechnology to provide more healthful fats.
• 69 percent were likely to buy such products if they were modified to reduce the potential for carcinogens—the same number who would buy products if they were modified to be protected from insect damage and to require fewer pesticide applications.
• 69 percent also said they would buy bread, crackers, cookies, cereals, or pasta made with flour modified to use less land, water, and/or pesticides.
“In our nearly two decades of consumer research, we’ve learned that consumers are supportive of the many benefits of food and agricultural biotechnology when clearly articulated,” Schmidt said.