Two-thirds of UK consumers think it is important that genetically modified (GM) foods are labelled, although only 2% actively look for GM content when buying foods for the first time, according to a new report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Carried out by research agency Define on behalf of the FSA, researchers questioned nearly 1,500 UK individuals about their attitudes toward GM food labelling – including labelling of both the absence or presence of GM material.
The study found that UK consumers had very low awareness of GM labelling requirements.
“There was a strong assumption that products containing GM would be regulated and labelled,” the report reads. “This assumption tended to extend to only GM ingredients, as there was typically no awareness of the use of GM animal feed or GMOs used in food production.”
Voluntary labelling of GM foods already exists in Germany, Austria and France, which have programmes to label meat, milk and eggs as GM-free, considering that animals fed GM crops are not required to be labelled as GM under EU legislation, and the European Union imports about 30m tonnes of GM crops as animal feed each year.
“Once made aware of its use in UK food products, participants typically considered that foods containing animal products derived from GM feed should be labelled, consistent with earlier research,” the report said.
Currently, two GM crops are approved for cultivation in Europe – Monsanto’s MON810 corn, and BASF’s Amflora potato. Several other GMO crops are not approved for cultivation but can be imported into Europe, and GM content must be labelled, although unintentional GM presence is tolerated at a level of up to 0.9%.
The FSA survey found that this tolerance level was generally accepted among participants, although there were exceptions for those with the strongest negative perceptions of genetic modification.
The full report is available here .