According to a new University of Florida (UF) study, even when armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods.
In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, says Brandon McFadden, a UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) assistant professor in food and resource economics.
To McFadden’s surprise, after participants read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe — not more.
“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society, we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden says. “Also, this indicates scientific findings about a societal risk likely having diminishing value over time.”
For the study, published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Food Policy, McFadden led a research project that surveyed 961 people across the U.S. via the Internet in April 2013.
To assess their beliefs about genetically modified foods, participants were asked to respond to statements such as: “Genetically modified crops are safe to eat.” Then they were given scientific information about genetically modified foods.
For example, researchers showed them this quote from the National Research Council regarding genetically modified food: “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
After reading statements from scientific groups, participants were asked about their beliefs regarding the safety of genetically modified foods. The choices ranged from “much less safe” to “much more safe.”
The results showed that before they received the information, 32 percent believed genetically modified foods were safe to eat; 32 percent were unsure and 36 percent did not believe GMO foods were safe to eat. After they received scientific information, about 45 percent believed genetically modified foods were safer to eat and 43 percent were not swayed by the information.
Read more about the study, which also included reactions to science on global warming, at bit.ly/gmostudy.