SOC/BIO: US Consumers Favor GM Crops That Reduce Pesticide Use

Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 14:27:07 MST

>From Reuters,
Tuesday January 11 9:03 PM ET

US Consumers Favor GM Crops to Curb Pesticides - Survey

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Nearly three-fourths of American consumers would support
genetically modified crops if the technology means farmers can reduce
pesticide use, according to a survey released Tuesday by the American Farm

The private survey was commissioned at a time when some environmental groups
have followed the lead of Europe and are pressing U.S. policymakers to
tighten regulation of biotech crops because they say not enough is known
about the long-term effects on human health.

Farm and food industry groups contend that the new technology improves crop
yields and reduces the amount of chemicals needed to prevent insect and
bacterial damage.

Some 1,002 consumers were interviewed for the survey in July and August,
with the majority indicating they had heard more about the drawbacks of
biotechnology rather than benefits.

More than half said they would support gene-altered corn, soybeans, squash
and other crops if the technology would improve the taste and nutritional
value of foods.

Some 73 percent of consumers surveyed favored biotech crops if they would
help farmers cut back on pesticides.

``This research shows that many of us in agriculture have miscalculated
where consumers' most pronounced concerns exist,'' said Jay Poole, vice
president of agriculture for Philip Morris Cos Inc (NYSE:MO - news) Inc.

Philip Morris, which owns Kraft, Oscar Mayer, Post and Miller food brands,
helped fund the survey.

Consumers also said they were willing to pay higher prices and have a
smaller selection of foods in grocery stores if that would help reduce farm
pesticide use.

``Some of these results really surprised us,'' said Dean Kleckner, president
of the American Farm Bureau, which released the survey results at its annual
meeting in Houston.

``It's clear that the agricultural industry has not done a good job
educating consumers about the benefits of pesticide use. It's important we
don't make the same mistake with biotechnology and other new farming

A related survey, conducted at the same time, asked 704 U.S. farmers to
assess how well they have explained the benefits of biotechnology to
consumers. Some 71 percent of farmers surveyed said they had done a fair or
poor job.

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