US consumers don't care about Starlink

The United States International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) conducted its fifth survey on consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology in Washington DC in January 2001. The survey included new questions to determine how consumers consider food biotechnology in relation to food safety issues.

The recall of human food products containing Starlink corn (a GM corn variety which accidendy entered the human food chain despite having been approved only for animal feed in the US) appears to have little impact on consumers.

While 50 per cent of the respondents were familiar with the Starlink issue when prompted, 95 per cent of them stated they had not taken any action on concerns regarding the issue. (Starlink maize was identified in taco shells in a popular restaurant chain.)

In relation to labelling, 74 per cent of respondents said they did not require any further information on GM food products in the supermarket. Seventy-five per cent of respondents indicated that they could seek information from toll-free numbers, brochures and web sites instead of labels.

According to the report, consumers continue to spond positively to the benefits of biotechnology for the foods they eat. Fifty-eight per cent of consumers are likely to buy foods enhanced to taste better or fresher (compared to 54 per cent in 2000), with 46 per cent stating they would buy foods modified to contain less saturated fat (compared to 40 per cent in 2000).

Seventy per cent of consumers accepted foods derived from crops modified to require fewer pesticides.

Sixty-four per cent of Americans expect to benefit from biotechnology within the next five years.

* An edited extract from the fourth edition of GMOS — Guiding Meaningful Opinions, the gene technology newsletter for the horticulture industry, April 2001. For more information, or to obtain a copy of the newsletter, contact Ms Evonne Lovric of Horticulture Australia Limited, on 02 8295 2300, email Evonne.Lovric@horticulture.com.au.