GM WATCH COMMENT: This puts to bed all the nonsense about American consumer acceptance of GM foods and confidence in US regulation.

Americans still wary of gene-altered food, study says
Washington Post, 7 December 200

WASHINGTON - Ten years after genetically engineered crops were first planted commercially in the United States, Americans remain ill-informed about and uncomfortable with biotech food, according to the fifth annual survey on the topic, released Wednesday.

People vastly underestimate how much gene-altered food they are already consuming; lean toward wanting greater regulation of such crops; and have less faith than ever that the Food and Drug Administration will provide accurate information, the survey found.

The poll also confirmed that most Americans - particularly women - do not like the idea of eating meat or milk from cloned animals - a view that stands in contrast to scientific evidence that cloned food is safe. The FDA recently said it is close to allowing such food on the market.

Overall, said Michael Fernandez, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, which sponsored the survey, Americans are "still generally uncertain" about genetically modified and cloned foods.

In the five years since Pew began plumbing American attitudes toward genetically engineered food, U.S. acreage in such crops has grown substantially. Today, 89 percent of soybeans, 83 percent of cotton and 61 percent of corn is genetically engineered to resist weed-killing chemicals or to help the plants make their own insecticides.

Since most processed foods contain at least small amounts of soy lecithin, corn syrup or related ingredients, almost everyone in the United States has consumed some amount of gene-altered food.

In this year's survey, conducted by the Mellman Group, only about one-quarter of the 1,000 adults polled thought they had ever eaten gene-altered food, an indication that Americans have "very little in-depth knowledge of the topic," according to a Pew summary.

Support for marketing genetically modified food has remained flat since 2001 at 27 percent, with opposition dropping from 58 percent in 2001 to 46 percent this year.

The proportion of Americans who say they "don't know" if gene modified foods are safe has shrunk since 2001, while the "safe" and "unsafe" camps grew by about 5 percent each: 34 percent believe they are safe, and 29 percent say they are not.