Speaking at the 2006 Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference in Melbourne, Craig Cormick, manager of public awareness for Biotechnology Australia, said that "consumer attitudes relating to GM foods are complex and studies that simply ask if people would or wouldn't eat GM foods don't do justice to the complexities of public attitudes."
Such findings put into perspective some objections to GM food in the EU. While some campaigners remain categorically against the whole concept of GM technology, some consumers might prove more receptive to certain types of food.
This could have implications for food manufacturers, especially those importing goods into the EU from markets such as the US.
"For example, Australians claim they are more likely to eat packaged foods containing GM ingredients and GM cooking oils than they are likely to eat GM vegetables," said Cormick.
The study found that while 37 per cent of people stated they were likely to eat any type of GM food (with 54 per cent not likely to eat GM foods), when the question was asked in terms of the actual GM foods that are available, the responses changed.
Some 48 per cent of respondents stated they were likely to eat packaged food containing a small amount of a GM ingredient such as GM soy or GM canola, and 48 per cent stated they were likely to eat GM cooking oils (44 per cent unlikely to eat either).
"Added to this is people's propensity to say one thing in food-related surveys but actually behave differently when shopping, which has been supported by focus group findings and other studies - indicating that the number of people in Australia who would eat the types of GM foods that are on our shelves is actually higher than indicated in this survey," he said.
The study also found that 90 per cent of consumers support the labelling of products to ensure consumer choice and 69 per cent supported continued research into which types of GM crops are suitable for Australian conditions.
The study was conducted by ACNielson and involved a sample size of 1410persons.