A recent survey showed that 80 percent of respondents support mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA, but experts say this strong response stems largely from misinformation.
Charles Moss, a food and resource economics professor at UF, said the dramatic response is more representative of people’s desire to label everything instead of a fear of DNA as it relates to food.
“People always think more information is a good thing,” he said.
The question to ask, Moss said, is whether a label has value. And because nearly every food product contains DNA, labeling it is worthless.
“From an economic standpoint, labeling has value only if it has potential to change your decision,” he said.
Moss also said the reason for such high support could be the result of an incorrect association of DNA with genetically modified organisms.
Brandon McFadden, a UF assistant professor in food and resource economics, has conducted surveys regarding GMOs in food. He said some people likely don’t know exactly what DNA means, thus confusing it with GMOs.
“I think that shows that a lot of people are pretty ignorant about science, but it’s not necessarily their fault,” said Chloe De Cresy, a 20-year-old UF microbiology and Spanish junior, in reference to the survey results.
A voluntary label for non-GMO foods is sometimes used, McFadden said. The irony, he said, is that a non-GMO label is almost unnecessary because anything organic and fresh automatically has zero GMOs.
“There’s a belief that throwing a label on something will solve the problem,” he said.
Although the idea of labeling food might be popular, he said, most people don’t know what the label will do for them.
[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 1/23/2015 under the headline “Study: No one knows DNA or GMOs"]