Surveys show similar views among Americans and Europeans toward genetically modified foods

Conventional wisdom has been that attitudes among Americans and Europeans toward genetically modified foods are very different with Americans supporting and Europeans opposing. However, two recent government-funded surveys indicate the two groups share some similar views.

The Eurobarometer, a comprehensive poll of European citizens carried out by the European Commission, shows a majority of Europeans, 70.9%, say they do not want GM foods. An overwhelming percentage of respondents, 94.6%, said they wanted the right to choose whether or not to eat GM foods. Another majority, 59.4%, felt that GM foods could have negative effects on the environment. Only 33.1% thought that the dangers of GM foods have been exaggerated by the media. Finally, 54.8% of respondents disagreed with the statement, "This kind of food does not present any particular danger," while only 14.6 agreed.

A study conducted by the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University and funded by the USDA, found that many Americans, like Europeans, seem skeptical about GM foods. Nearly three-quarters of the public, 73%, believe that "Most GM foods were created because scientists were able to make them, not because the public wanted them." Nearly seven-in-ten also endorse the idea that "Companies involved in creating GM crops believe profits are more important than safety." As a result, 75% of Americans agree that "The potential danger from genetic modification is so great that strict regulations are necessary." Nearly 63% of those interviewed also agree that "The government does not have the tools to properly regulate GM foods."

In addition, 90% of American consumers say that GM foods should have special labels on them, and about half (48 percent) say that they would not buy fresh vegetables if they were labeled as produced through GM. Both polls also found that the public lacks knowledge about biotechnology and GM foods.
(January 2002)