Survey Reveals Americans Don’t Trust Scientists On GMOs

A new survey from the Pew Research Center of 1,480 people shows that many Americans don’t trust GMOs, or scientists, for that matter. Well, people don’t really see the purported benefits of GMOs, at least. [1]

Generally speaking, Republicans and Democrats have some vastly different attitudes about climate change, but that’s not the case with genetically modified organisms. According to the poll, it didn’t seem to matter what political party respondents aligned themselves with, either. [2]

The authors of the report write:

“Roughly equal shares of Republicans (39%) and Democrats (40%) feel that genetically engineered foods are worse for people’s health. And, half of Republicans (50%) and 60% of Democrats have positive views about the health benefits of organic foods.”
When you write about stuff like GMOs for a living, you get to read all sorts of totally obnoxious sarcastic, snarky comments about how ignorant and uneducated you must be to be wary of GMOs – as if its wrong to be cautious. (Yes, nothing is more ridiculous than questioning food that is created in a lab.) Yet, Pew found that about 39% of respondents with postgraduate degrees felt that foods with GM ingredients are worse for health, while 32% of those with a high school diploma or less said the same.

Statistically significant? Nah. But it tickled me a little.

When asked to self-report their “scientific knowledge” as “high,” “medium,” or “low,” those in the “medium” category were the most likely to think GM crops are worse for health (47%), while those in the “high” category weren’t quite as worried about the potential health ramifications of GMOs (37%). Those with “low” scientific knowledge were the least concerned about the effects of GMOs (29%).

No, political lines didn’t seem to divide respondents’ opinions on GMOs, but interestingly enough, respondents were almost as likely to believe that a scientist’s own political leanings would influence his or her research as much as his or her concern for the public interest.

What’s more, a large percentage of respondents also believed that a scientist’s professional aspirations were equally likely to dictate research findings as actual evidence.

Pew says that, overall, Americans’ attitudes about food and health are not determined by politics or demographics. The researchers write:

“The divides over food do not fall along familiar political fault lines. Nor do they strongly tie to other common divisions such as education, income, geography, or having minor children. Rather, they tie to individual concerns and philosophies about the relationship between food and well-being.

One indicator of such philosophies is the degree of concern people have about the issue of GM foods. The minority of U.S. adults who care deeply about the issue of GM foods (16%) are much more likely than those with less concern about this issue to consider GM foods worse for health (75% vs. 17% of those with no or not too much concern about GM foods); they are also much more likely to consider organic produce healthier: 81% compared with 35% of those with no or not too much concern about GM foods.”

Here are a few more findings from the survey:

  • 48% said GM foods were no different from non-GMO foods.
  • 64% agreed that scientists understand the health effects of GM foods “fairly well” or “very well,” but 35% said scientists either don’t know much about the health effects or know nothing at all.
  • 16% of adults said they cared “a great deal” about GM foods, while 37% said they cared “some” about the issue. About 31% said they didn’t care too much and 15% didn’t care at all.
  • Younger adults were more likely to consider GM foods a health risk, with 48% of those 18 to 29 saying that GMOs are worse for health than non-GMOs compared with 29% of those 65 and older.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re a dolt for being worried about genetically modified food!

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