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Study: Most Would Accept Nanotechnology, Genetic Modification in Food for Nutrition, Safety

New research suggests that most consumers will accept nanotechnology or genetic modification technology in their food if it will enhance nutrition or improve safety.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. It asked about their willingness to purchase genetically modified (GM) food and foods containing nanotech and qualifiers such as price, enhanced nutrition, improved taste and improved safety, and whether the food’s production had environmental benefits.

The results, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, showed that consumers are generally willing to pay more to avoid these technologies in their food, but that they are more accepting of it if there are health and safety benefits.

The researchers divided participants into four groups. The first were the “price-oriented,” who tend to base their decisions in grocery store aisles on the food’s cost regardless of the presence of the technologies. This group made up 23 percent of those surveyed.

The “technology averse” would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. They made up 19 percent of the participants.

“New technology rejecters” wouldn’t buy GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances and encompassed 18 percent of survey participants.

Forty percent of participants fit into the “benefit-oriented” group, which would buy GM or nanotech foods if they had enhanced nutrition or were safer.

“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits,” said Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of the paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them.”

Food Safety News

Nutrition, safety key to consumer acceptance of nanotech, genetic modification in foods

New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota shows that the majority of consumers will accept the presence of nanotechnology or genetic modification (GM) technology in foods — but only if the technology enhances the nutrition or improves the safety of the food.

“In general, people are willing to pay more to avoid GM or nanotech in foods, and people were more averse to GM tech than to nanotech,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of a paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “However, it’s not really that simple. There were some qualifiers, indicating that many people would be willing to buy GM or nanotech in foods if there were health or safety benefits.”

The researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. Participants were asked to answer an array of questions that explored their willingness to purchase foods that contained GM tech and foods that contained nanotech. The questions also explored the price of the various foods and whether participants would buy foods that contained nanotech or GM tech if the foods had enhanced nutrition, improved taste, improved food safety, or if the production of the food had environmental benefits.

The researchers found that survey participants could be broken into four groups.

Eighteen percent of participants belonged to a group labeled the “new technology rejecters,” which would not by GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances. Nineteen percent of participants belonged to a group labeled the “technology averse,” which would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. Twenty-three percent of participants were “price oriented,” basing their shopping decisions primarily on the cost of the food — regardless of the presence of GM or nanotech. And 40 percent of participants were “benefit oriented,” meaning they would buy GM or nanotech foods if the foods had enhanced nutrition or food safety.

“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits — because a majority of consumers would be willing to buy those products,” Kuzma says.

“From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them,” Kuzma adds.

The paper, “Heterogeneous Consumer Preferences for Nanotechnology and Genetic-modification Technology in Food Products,” is published online in the Journal of Agricultural Economics. Lead author of the paper is Dr. Chengyuan Yue of the University of Minnesota. The paper was co-authored by Shuoli Zhao, a graduate student at UM. The research was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

First comprehensive test to detect genetic modification in food

Jan. 15, 2014 — As the abundance of genetically modified (GM) foods continues to grow, so does the demand for monitoring and labeling them. The genes of GM plants used for food are tweaked to make them more healthful or pest-resistant, but some consumers are wary of such changes. To help inform shoppers and enforce regulations, scientists are reporting in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry the first comprehensive method to detect genetic modifications in one convenient, accurate test.

Li-Tao Yang, Sheng-Ce Tao and colleagues note that by the end of 2012, farmers were growing GM crops on more than 420 million acres of land across 28 countries. That’s 100 times more than when commercialization began in 1996. But doubts persist about the potential effects on the environment and human health of these biotech crops, created by changing the plants’ genes to make them more healthful or more able to resist pests. In response, policymakers, particularly in Europe, have instituted regulations to monitor GM products. Although researchers have come up with many ways to detect genetic modification in crops, no single test existed to do a comprehensive scan, which is where Yang and Tao come in.

They developed a test they call “MACRO,” which stands for: multiplex amplification on a chip with readout on an oligo microarray. It combines two well-known genetic methods to flag about 97 percent of the known commercialized modifications, almost twice as many as other tests. It also can be easily expanded to include future genetically modified crops.

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Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ning Shao, Shimeng Jiang, Miao Zhang, Jing Wang, Shujuan Guo, Hewei Jiang, CHengxi Liu, Xing Ling, Dabing Zhang, Litao Yang, Shengce Tao. MACRO: A Combined Microchip-PCR and Microarray System for High-throughput Monitoring of Genetically Modified Organisms. Analytical Chemistry, 2013; : 131222110642000 DOI: 10.1021/ac403630a

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News