Americans tend to favor genetically modified food

Americans surveyed will support genetically modified crops if they taste better and have more nutritional value.
By John Russo/
Recent events suggest that Americans and their government are more willing to have genetically modified food research continue and are willing to buy genetically modified foods from their grocers.

Nearly three-quarters of American consumers surveyed will support genetically modified crops if the technology means farmers can reduce pesticide use, according to a survey released by the American Farm Bureau. This private survey was commissioned by Philip Morris (which owns Kraft), Oscar Mayer, and the Post and Miller food brands.

Approximately 1,000 consumers were interviewed for the survey in July and August 1999. Most said they had heard more about the drawbacks of biotechnology rather than its potential benefits. In addition, more than half said they would support gene-altered corn, soybeans, squash and other crops if the technology would improve their taste and nutritional value.

In response to preliminary data that pollen from some strains of corn with built-in pesticides can kill the larva of the monarch butterfly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced new regulations to reduce the risks from corn genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide.

The New York Times reported that the EPA views the evidence of harm to monarch butterflies as preliminary, but it is directing biotech seed companies to ask farmers to voluntarily protect butterflies by planting traditional corn around the edges of fields planted with corn that carries a gene derived from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which kills a caterpillar called the European corn borer. This action would create a buffer to prevent toxic pollen from blowing into butterfly habitats, according to the EPA.

Rebecca Goldburg, a biologist and senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, a watchdog group based in New York, expressed concern that biotech companies had been given the responsibility for encouraging farmers to protect monarchs. However, John Losey, an author on the Cornell study, which first exposed the risk to the monarch butterfly, praised the agency’s actions as a good interim approach while more data is gathered.

David Andow, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota who studies the evolution of resistance to pesticides, called the measures “a real step forward.”  

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is senior vice president of medical communications at He is a pharmacist and medical writer with 20 years of experience in medical education.



E.P.A. Announces New Rules on Genetically Altered Corn. The New York Times, Monday, January 17, 2000.

U.S. Consumers Favor GM Crops to Curb Pesticides — Survey. Houston (Reuters), Tuesday, January 11, 2000