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Study Shows Consumers Respond Positively to Science-Based Messages

The biotech Advantage June 12, 2002
New research confirms that U.S. consumers are more accepting of biotechnology when presented with sound, science-based information.
In a recent study conducted by researchers at Purdue University, 576 people were tested to see how their attitudes toward genetically enhanced foods would be affected by a one-hour presentation on food biotechnology. The results, soon to be published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, indicate that people are more knowledgeable and accepting of biotechnology when they have been provided with scientific information.
"Consumer education is an important aspect in the adoption of any new technology, and especially so when it comes to safe, economical food production," says Charles Santerre, associate professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University who conducted the study. "Without fundamental understanding of the science behind food biotechnology, it's very difficult for consumers to discern between credible and false information."
Participants in the study were tested on their knowledge and attitudes concerning genetically modified foods both before and after a one-hour training session. The information they received included an historical perspective of agriculture and classical breeding; techniques for genetically modifying food crops; a listing of enhanced crop that are commercially available; a review of food regulatory policies; a discussion of issues relating to environmental and food safety, consumer acceptance, and food labeling.
The tests showed that training could have dramatic results. Prior to the training, only 31 percent of those tested believed that genetically modified crops were properly regulated, while after training, 83 percent believed these crops are regulated properly. Likewise, prior to testing, only 25 percent were confident that genetic modification was unlikely to make foods allergenic. After training, that number increased to 63 percent.
"We also found that 90 percent of those who received the training would eat and serve genetically modified foods to their families, and 90 percent believed that their families would benefit from genetically modified foods within the next five years," Santerre says. "This confirmed my belief that consumers can understand complex issues when the concepts are properly developed and delivered."
"Survey: Americans Trust the Science Behind Bioengineered Foods," Purdue University Press Release