ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
25 September 2002


The press release below which tells us that, 'Support for food biotechnology holds in the U.S.' reports the results from the latest annual survey of the International Food Information Council. But you'll have to read down to a footnote to discover that, "IFIC is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries." Precisely who those supporters are is not specified.

The press release also fails to tell you that the surveys were devised for the IFIC by Dr Thomas Hoban, Professor of Sociology and Food Science at North Carolina State University and a rabid supporter of genetic engineering. Hoban is listed by CS Prakash as an AgBioWorld expert.

Hoban's publications include such gems as, "Biotechnology is Here to Stay: American retailers need not worry about consumer acceptance of foods produced with modern biotechnology", and an outreach videotape, "Biotechnology: It's Role in Your Future". []

The IFIC press release also fails to mention just how loaded Hoban's survey questions are. Questions like:

"All things being equal, how likely would you be to buy a variety of produce, like tomatoes or potatoes, if it had been modified by biotechnology to taste better or fresher?"

"Biotechnology has also been used to enhance plants that yield foods like cooking oils. If cooking oil with reduced saturated fat made from these new plants was available, what effect would the use of biotechnology have on your decision to buy this cooking oil." [U.S. Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Biotechnology Survey:]

According to Karen Charman in a PR Watch article on Hoban and his slanted IFIC surveys:

'James Beniger, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, reviewed the IFIC survey and said it is so biased with leading questions favoring positive responses that any results are meaningless. UCLA communications professor Michael Suman agreed, adding that the questions "only talk about the food tasting better, being fresher, protecting food from insect damage, reducing saturated fat and providing benefits. It's like saying 'Here's biotechnology, it does these great things for you, do you like it?'" The results might be different, Suman offers, if it contained questions biased in the other direction such as: "Some people contend that some foods produced from biotechnology cause higher rates of cancer. If that is so, what effect would that have on your buying decision?" ' [The Professor Who Can Read Your Mind by Karen Charman in PR Watch Vol. 6, No. 4 / Fourth Quarter 1999]



September 23, 2002

American consumer support for food biotechnology is holding steady, while specific benefits are resonating even more in the latest survey conducted for the International Food Information Council by Cogent Research in August 2002.

Nearly three quarters (71% vs. 65% in 2001) of the US population said they would be likely to buy produce that had been enhanced through biotechnology to be protected from insect damage and require fewer pesticide applications.

In addition, more than half of American consumers (54%) would be likely to purchase the same produce if it had been enhanced to taste better or fresher, a number that has remained stable since October 1999. Most (61%) of consumers still expect to benefit from biotechnology over the next five years. Of those expecting benefits, 41% look to improved quality, taste, and variety, 39% cite the area of health and nutrition, and 20% expect biotech to reduce levels of chemicals and pesticides in food production.

Overall awareness of biotechnology remains high, with 72% of Americans stating they have read or heard information about the issue, and nearly half of consumers (48%) have heard about a new area of biotechnology called plant-made pharmaceuticals.

A majority (59%) of Americans support the FDA's labeling policy-which requires disclosure on a food label only if biotechnology introduces an allergen or substantially changes the food's nutritional content. Also, when asked what information they would like to see added to food labels, 78% of consumers said "nothing" and just 1% cited information related to biotech ingredients.

The survey was conducted in August 2002 by Cogent Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Telephone surveys of 1001 US adults age 18 and over were completed, and the attached results are representative of the US population.


International Food Information Council (IFIC) is a nonprofit organization that communicates sound science-based information on food safety and nutrition topics to  health professionals, journalists, government officials and consumers. IFIC programs are supported by the broad-based food, beverage and agriculture industries. IFIC materials can be found online at

ngin bulletin archive