United Press InternationalMonday, 6th May, 2002
Genetic, Natural Foods Sell About The Same In EuropeManufacturers who sell both genetically modified foods and natural products say the two versions sell at about the same level in Europe -- and that does not surprise a Purdue University economist.
Charles Noussair, an associate professor at the West Lafayette, Ind., university, said it is common for public opinion and consumer behavior to differ.
"Opinion surveys capture the respondent in the role of a voter, not in the role of a consumer," Noussair said. "The two behaviors can be quite different." Noussair worked with economists in Europe to study the issue. Some surveys have shown that up to 90 percent of people say they do not want to have anything to do with foods that come from genetically modified seed.
Their research showed that most people, when it came time to shop for food, did not care enough to pay attention to the ingredient lists on food packaging to really be able to tell the difference.
"What is not read in the laboratory will probably not be read in the supermarket," the scientists wrote, in a report published in the Economic Letters academic journal.
The report found that consumers did not notice a food contained genetically modified products even after they were seated and left for three minutes with nothing to look at but the ingredient label.
Consumers were given 150 francs (about $21) and asked to bid on a product. Consumers bid on large chocolate bars made by a major multinational company that produces both genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods.
The study found even after they were told the chocolate bars contained genetically modified ingredients, most of the consumers were still willing to buy them but only if the price was about one-third less than conventional products.
Research was funded by a partnership of 37 organizations, including groups as diverse as Monsanto, which produces many food products from genetically altered seed, and Greenpeace, which opposes genetic foods on the belief not enough is known about them to ensure they are safe for human consumption.
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