Greater Knowledge Isn’t Cooling GMO Fears
Humans are typically more comfortable with a concept the more familiar they are with it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our foods. Our report, Navigating GMOs for Success, shows more people today compared to just three years ago are familiar with GMOs and why we use them, yet concern levels for consuming them continue to rise.
In 2013, 44 percent of primary grocery shoppers said GMOs have benefits, and most of the benefits they cited centered around more resilient crops and less pesticide use. At the same time, 70 percent said they had some kind of concern when it came to consuming genetically modified foods. Now more than half of primary grocery shoppers say there are benefits to GMOs, but as the number of those who are more familiar with the benefits grows, so does the number of people who are concerned, which now stands at 76 percent.
Source: The NPD Group/Custom GMO Survey 2016
Demand for non-GMO foods might be here to stay given the generational differences for awareness levels. There was a rise overall in awareness since 2013, but that mostly came from younger adults. That group of younger adults includes Millennials, who are telling us they have heard a great deal or quite a bit about GMOs. They are also the group growing most in terms of concern about consuming GMOs. Avoiding GMOs appears to be more of a generational shift than a passing fad.
Where people get their information about GMOs reflects the increasingly youthful face of those concerned. While TV has remained the most-cited source of information about GMOs since 2013, social media and the Internet are fast-growing sources, where information (regardless of its accuracy) can spread to millions of people in a short period of time. Marketers who choose to disclose the presence of GMOs in their products should harness social media to pre-empt negative reactions given the speed at which it can disseminate information before inaccurate information spreads.
Restaurants aren’t off the hook either when it comes to GMO concerns. When asked how concerned they are about ordering genetically modified foods and beverages when they go out to eat, about one third of older Millennials said they were concerned. By comparison, less than a quarter of all adults said the same. These concerns are clearly on the minds of many Millennials no matter where they source their food. GMOs will need to be addressed across the food consumption spectrum when catering to the needs of this generation.