CHICAGO—Whether genetically-modified (GMO) foods should be labeled has been a hot-button issue for the past few years; however, results of a new GMO awareness survey from the NPD Group reveals 67% of all primary grocery shoppers are not willing to pay a higher price for non-GMO foods.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has maintained genetically modified ingredients are as safe as conventional food; however, critics of GMOs question their safety and impact on the environment.
Survey results found more than half of U.S. consumers express some level of concern about GMOs, but when asked to describe GMOs, many primary grocery shoppers are unclear, which may be a factor in their unwillingness to pay a higher price for non-GMO foods. Also unclear to consumers is the prevalence of GMO versus non-GMO items at the grocers. Four out of 10 primary grocery shoppers either feel that they buy non-GMOs mostly while the same ratio of consumers say they are not sure.
And while many consumers aren’t willing to pay more for non-GMO foods and beverages,11% of primary shoppers are aware and concerned about GMOs and willing to pay more. The survey also found 50% of consumers who primarily shop specialty stores are willing to pay more for non-GMO products.
“Since more consumers over the last few years have been expressing concerns about GMOs, it’s time to have a dialog with shoppers about what they are and what roles they play in the food chain, " says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Manufacturers and retailers can take an active role in this conversation by helping to educate consumers about GMOs, and learning which food and beverage categories face scrutiny among consumers when they are trying to determine if the product contains GMOs. Marketers who wish to get messages out about their products as they relate to GMOs should engage both traditional and social media for effective communication avenues."
In January, more than 200 businesses and organizations urged President Obama to require food companies to disclose GMOs on labels. The businesses and groups referenced a 2007 speech from the then Illinois senator that pledged he would grant consumers the right to know if GMOs are present in their food.
Two states, Connecticut and Maine, have enacted GMO laws, although they don't take effect unless other states pass GMO labeling legislation. More than 20 other states are considering similar laws, the groups pointed out in the letter to Obama. Signatories of the letter include a diverse group of businesses and organizations such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Amy's Kitchen, Stonyfield Farm and the Center for Food Safety. One of the letter's signatories, Dr. Bronner's Magical Soaps, provided financial support for a GMO labeling initiative in the state of Washington that voters rejected in November 2013.