What consumers really think about GM labelling

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Food safety Gm

Dr Andrew Wadge will take part in a free one-hour food science and technology webinar. See article for details
Dr Andrew Wadge will take part in a free one-hour food science and technology webinar. See article for details
Only 2% of consumers scan labels for information about genetically modified (GM) produce when buying food products for the first time, according to new research from food safety watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The study − carried out by Define Research and Insight − also revealed that consumers’ awareness of the current labelling requirements was low.

GM food is just one of a number of controversial new technologies to be discussed in a free one-hour long webinar to take place at 11am GMT on Thursday January 24. Book your free place here​.

Meanwhile, the research into consumers’ attitudes towards labelling discovered a “slight preference”​ for labelling indicating the presence of GM rather than the absence of GM.

‘Completely free of any GM’

Also, consumers expected products labelled as ‘GM-free’ to be completely free of any GM ingredients.

FSA chief scientist Dr Andrew Wadge is taking part in the free webinar to be staged later this month. Wadge will explain how regulatory frameworks can help to introduce clarity in the debate about controversial food technologies such as GM food, irradiation and nanotechnology.

Also taking part will be consumer watchdog Which? and Leatherhead Food Research (LFR).

Sue Davies, chief policy adviser Which?, will place the debate in the framework of consumer acceptability.

LFR principal consumer analyst Nicole Patterson will reveal recent research that uncovers consumers’ perceptions about the communication and application of nanotechnology and GM topics.

Science and technology

The webinar is aimed at anyone in the industry who welcomes a debate based on science and technology rather than mere prejudice. It will also be particularly useful to food sector communicators, food science and technology policy makers, and government science policy makers.

Organised by the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) and FoodManufacture.co.uk, the webinar titled ‘Food fact and fiction, separating science from myth’ will take place at 11am GMT on Thursday, January 24, 2013.

Book your free place for this hour-long webinar here​.

During the session, you will be able to put a question directly to our expert panel.

Alternatively, email questions in advance to zvpunry.fgbarf@jeoz.pbz​.


Consumer attitudes to GM labelling conclusions

  • Consumer awareness of labelling rules is low
  • Participants typically did not seek information or labelling with regard to GM foods. Only 2%  looked for information about GM content when buying food products for the first time
  • Slight preference for labelling indicating the presence of GM, rather than labelling indicating the absence of GM
  • Labelling foods to indicate the absence of GM ingredients can result in a number of expectations. For example, participants expected a product labelled as ‘GM-free’ to be completely free of the use of GM.
  • Participants were unaware of the use of GM animal feed by farmers. Once made aware of its use, they typically considered that products from animals fed GM feed should be labelled, consistent with previous FSA research.

Source: FSA

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Tell me, too!

Posted by Jennifer Christiano,

Great points, Paul!

I, too, am one of the 2% of consumers who scan for GM labeling - or, more specifically, for 'Certified GMO Free' labeling. That'[s because 'Contains GMO' labeling does not exist. Maybe that's why consumers are confused and don't look for it?

On the other hand, given the growth and success of the 'Non GMO Certified' label, perhaps the correct question to ask would have been: Are scanning for non-GMO assurance?
Apparently they are, in droves.

It seems like the best way to compete would be to clearly and prominently label GMO products as GMO products. If the companies really believe that's what the consumer would be clamoring for, give them the choice.

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GM free? Tell us!

Posted by Paul Clarke,

I must be one of the 2%!

I always look at labels to make sure there is no GM content. What I don't understand is why the GM industry is so keen to hide any GM content from the labels if only 2% of us read them?

You would think that products would be flash marked 'Now with GM' if they believe it to be so wonderful?

In the US there are huge battles going on over trying to hide GM content from labeling. Let's have it clearly marked and also in any meat product were the animal was fed on a GM diet or not.

Also, we should know whether packaging contains GM.

Given that, according to a recent report, we throw away half the food we buy, why do we need GM anyway? What food shortages?

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