WASHINGTON, July 8, 2015 – A recently released analysis from the Pew Research Center found little difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to opinions about the safety of genetically modified, or GMO, food.

The data indicates that a majority of U.S. adults from both parties do not view GMO food as safe to eat. As Pew previously reported, just 37 percent of respondents said they believe that eating foods made with biotechnology is generally safe, while 57 percent say they believe it is unsafe. 

The analysis published this month is the third in a series that relied on data from a representative sample of 2,002 adults nationwide surveyed in August 2014. Within that sample, 737 identified themselves as Republican or leaning so, while 959 identified with Democrats. The first report compared a survey of the general public with a companion survey of U.S. members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). A second report focused on data from the survey of AAAS members to explore the ways in which scientists interact with citizens and journalists and their reasons for doing so.

The most recent report, “Americans, Politics and Science Issues,” recognized bigger differences between political parties and ideology on several other topics, including energy and climate change.

For example, 71 percent of Democrats said the Earth is warming primarily due to human activity, while only 27 percent of Republicans hold this view. Of Republicans, 30 percent say climate change is mostly due to natural patterns in the Earth’s environment and 41 percent say there is no solid evidence the Earth is warming.

The Pew data also shows that fewer women (28 percent) than men (47 percent) believe eating GM foods is safe.  Notably, about two-thirds of women still handle most of the grocery shopping, according to a 2013 report commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association and conducted by global market researcher GfK Custom Research North America.

While Pew said opinions about the safety of biotech food did not vary across political or ideological affiliation, the report did find differences in opinion across education groups. People with postgraduate degrees, it noted, were the only education group with a majority (57 percent) saying GMO foods are generally safe. Additionally, a person with more science knowledge is 17 percentage points more likely to say that GM foods are safe, the report noted.

In an email, Biotechnology Industry Organization spokesperson Karen Batra acknowledged that the Pew survey results reflect a need for more consumer awareness about biotechnology.

“While surveys on public opinion can produce varying results depending on how questions are asked – especially in regards to opinions on food safety – we acknowledge that consumers have a lot of questions about genetically modified foods,” she said.

Batra noted that the biotechnology industry is working to inform the public about the use of GE technology in agriculture, highlighting the GMO Answers website as an example.

“More and more we are seeing industry, government, and scientific communities come together to talk more openly about these issues and hopefully better bridge the divide between science and public opinion,” she said.


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