When it comes to genetically modified (GM) foods or GMOs, Americans have mixed feelings. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, about half (51 percent) of US adults think GM foods are worse for people’s health than foods with no GM ingredients.
While 41 percent say GM foods have a neutral effect on health, just seven percent say they are better for health than other foods. Views about the health effects of such foods grew more negative between 2016 and 2018 and have been steady since then, according to Pew’s surveys.
GM foods have been genetically engineered to alter their DNA for a specific purpose. An example is the famed Flavr Savr tomato, which was genetically engineered to inhibit a gene that produces the protein that makes tomatoes ripen and rot. As a result, the Flavr Savr tomato remained firm and bright red for longer than non-GM tomatoes.
As Americans think about the effects of GM foods, 74 percent say it is at least fairly likely that GM foods will increase the global food supply, with 62 percent saying GM foods are very or fairly likely to lead to more affordably priced food.
Of the Americans who think GM foods are worse for health, 88 percent believe they are at least fairly likely to result in health problems for the population as a whole. At the same time, half or more also say that such foods are at least fairly likely to help increase the global food supply or result in more affordably priced food.
Those who believe that genetically modified foods are neither better nor worse for health than conventionally grown foods tend to expect positive benefits from GM foods for the global food supply. But only 27 percent of this group think GM foods are at least fairly likely to result in health problems for the population as a whole.
People who are more familiar with GM foods are more likely to be concerned about their health effects: 55 percent of those who know a lot and a similar share (51 percent) of those who know a little about GM foods believe such foods are worse for health. That is compared with 39 percent of those who say they know nothing about GM foods.
GMOs have been heavily studied and new GM crops must go through an evaluation and approval process through the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the FDA determined they are unsafe, they won’t go to market.
While about half of American adults are wary of the health effects of GM foods, many also see advantages. And since the scientific consensus to date is that GM foods do not pose health risks to humans, consumers will continue to see them on grocery store shelves.