Survey says: The majority of Americans still distrust GMO in their diets.

By Danica Lo
Updated May 24, 2017
© ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

For most rational people, science (and scientific reasoning) is king—especially when it comes to making everyday decisions. So why don't Americans trust scientists when it comes to genetically modified food?

According to the results of a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center—involving nearly 1,500 "nationally representative" adults—55 percent of those surveyed believe "organically grown produce is healthier than conventionally grown varieties," and 39 percent "consider genetically modified foods worse for a person's health than other foods." Furthermore, 40 percent of Americans say "most (six percent) or some (34 percent) of the foods they eat are organic." Of this group, 75 percent are "convinced that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods."

In a world where "post-truth" was recently declared 2016's Word of the Year, it's not surprising that some people are increasingly leaning on personal belief systems and gut instinct over facts and science when it comes to choosing behavioral pathways. What is interesting is that, in the case of GMO produce, it's those who are more invested in nutrition and self-care who are most dubious of scientific claims that genetically modified foods are safe—in other words, it's the health-conscious well-read label-scrutinizers, people who ostensibly have done the most research, who don't believe the science.

"People deeply concerned about the issue of GM foods also take that focus to the grocery aisles," the study explains. "The vast majority of this group (89 percent) has purchased foods based on the nutrition and ingredient labels and 82 percent have done so several times in the past month; 89 percent have bought organic foods and 74 percent have bought foods labeled GMO-free. Fewer of those with less concern have done the same."

Sure, it seems like common sense: Don't mess with Mother Nature, right? And shouldn't people have the right to choose non-genetically-modified food to consume? "People with deep concern about the issue of GM foods are especially convinced that healthy eating habits lead the way to a long and healthy life," the Pew Research Center writes. "Eighty-seven percent of those who care a great deal about the GM foods issue say healthy eating is very important for a person's chances of a long and healthy life, compared with 68 percent among those who do not care about the GM foods issue at all or not too much."

So, where does this distrust of science on this singular issue come from? The study found that negative beliefs about GMO foods are often rooted in skepticism over how the food industry influences scientists. "Their views of scientists and science research findings are often in sync with others, but people with a deep concern about the issue of GM foods are particularly skeptical of information from food industry leaders about the health effects of GM foods and see more industry influence on science research findings than do other Americans." In fact, "half of those who care deeply about the issue of GM foods say that scientific findings about GM foods are influenced by the researchers' desires to help their industries 'most of the time.'"

Where do you stand on genetically modified foods? Do you prefer to buy organic or does it not make a difference to you?