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US consumer backs biotech foods

16-May-2003

With impeccable timing in light of the US move earlier this week to file a case with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the EU ban on biotech foods, a recent report from Washington, DC, based International Food Information Council (IFIC) claims a growing majority of Americans support the benefits of food biotechnology as well as the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) labelling policy.

As the European Union trade position on genetically modified organisms continues to severly restrict the presence of GM crops, and derivatives, on the European marketplace, US farmers are up in arms that they are losing out on millions of dollars of potential trade. This new report will add fuel to their fire.

While viewed with marked cynicism by the European consumer, foods derived from biotechnology are more widely tolerated by the US shopper, a fact substantiated by the IFIC 's eighth consumer survey on food biotechnology.

The report suggests that 62 per cent of Americans believe that biotechnology will benefit them or their families in the next five years. With 43 per cent, improved quality and taste had the number one slot as the best benefit of biotech foods in the minds of the US consumer, followed by improved health and nutrition at 40 per cent, and reduced chemical and pesticide use on plants at 19 per cent.

But as with any survey, the phrasing is all. IFIC reports that 56 per cent of consumers are likely to purchase the same produce if it has been modified through biotechnology to taste better or fresher. Well who wouldn't choose foods that taste better? Which also begs the question, what does 'taste better' actually mean? And on what, and whose, scale are we measuring taste?

But questions notwithstanding, the report does clearly show that the US consumer is behind the biotech farmer. A fact which will add grist to the mill of the US farmer and politician in their current trade battle with the European Union.

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