More than half of U.S. consumers (66 percent) say it is important that the foods they purchase and consume are produced in a sustainable way, according to 2014 Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology survey results. The majority of consumers also have a positive view of modern agriculture, with more than seven in ten agreeing modern agriculture can be sustainable and produce nutritional, high-quality foods.

The survey, which was conducted March 28 through April 7 of 2014, and an overview of the results were presented by Lindsey Loving, senior director, Food Ingredient & Technology Communications, International Food Information Council (IFIC) during a webcast May 28, 2014.

Consumers in the survey defined sustainability as “meeting long-term food needs by producing more food affordably, with the same or fewer resources, in a way that is better for the environment and keeps food affordable and accessible for consumers.” The aspects of sustainability most important to Americans are “conserving the natural habitat” (47 percent), “ensuring an affordable food supply” (45 percent), and “ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population” (43 percent).

Sustainability and biotechnology

The majority of consumers surveyed, 71 percent, have some awareness of plant biotechnology. Twenty-eight percent are favorable toward plant biotechnology, with the same number being unfavorable -- an increase from 20 percent in 2012. However, 43 percent of consumers are neutral or say they don’t know enough to form an opinion.

Seventy-two percent of consumers who ranked “ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population” in their top three important aspects of sustainability believe there is a role for biotechnology.
Many consumers also reported that they are likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology for certain benefits such as nutrition. The millennial generation (ages 18-34) have significantly more favorable impressions of food biotechnology, with 38 percent being favorable. Millennials are also willing to pay more for sustainable food (43 percent).


“Lack of information” and “not understanding the benefits” of biotechnology continue to be reasons consumers cite for being not favorable toward animal biotechnology, according to the survey.

Food labeling

The majority of consumers (63 percent) support the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy for labeling of foods produced through biotechnology, although the percentage who oppose or want changes (19 percent) is higher than in 2012 (14 percent).

Both moms and millennials want more information on food labels, according to survey results. Two in five millennials (39 percent) want more information on food labels, significantly higher than ages 35-54 (26 percent) and ages 55 and older (16 percent). Among moms, additional ingredient information is the top-mentioned desired addition to food.

Food safety

Overall confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains consistently high, at 67 percent. Disease, contamination and handling are still the most mentioned food safety concerns, but at lower levels than in past years.

Consumers trust health organizations (50 percent) and government agencies (45 percent) most for information regarding food biotechnology. Farmers (40 percent) landed in the top three most trusted sources for information on sustainability in food production in the 2014 survey.