Responses to GM food content in context with food integrity issues: results from Australian population surveys
•Omnibus surveys of two large, national probability samples limit potential for bias.•Examined responses to GM content in context with common food integrity issues.•Drivers of attitudes to GM and common additives were largely indistinguishable.•Rated concern was lower for GE than for other common food integrity issues.•Context is critical to understanding community responses to GM content in food.
This study examined community responses to use of genetically modified (GM) content in food in the context of responses to familiar food additives by testing an empirically and theoretically derived model of the predictors of responses to both GM content and food integrity issues generally. A nationwide sample of 849 adults, selected at random from the Australian Electoral Roll, responded to a postal Food and Health Survey. Structural equation modelling analyses confirmed that ratings of general concern about food integrity (related to the presence of preservatives and other additives) strongly predicted negativity towards GM content. Concern about food integrity was, in turn, predicted by environmental concern and health engagement. In addition, both concern about food integrity generally and responses to GM content specifically were weakly predicted by attitudes to benefits of science and an intuitive (i.e., emotionally-based) reasoning style. Data from a follow-up survey conducted under the same conditions (N = 1184) revealed that ratings of concern were significantly lower for use of genetic engineering in food than for four other common food integrity issues examined. Whereas the question of community responses to GM is often treated as a special issue, these findings support the conclusion that responses to the concept of GM content in food in Australia are substantially a specific instance of a general sensitivity towards the integrity of the food supply. They indicate that the origins of responses to GM content may be largely indistinguishable from those of general responses to preservatives and other common food additives.
Journal: New Biotechnology - Volume 33, Issue 1, 25 January 2016, Pages 91–98