More than 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on food that contain DNA, according to a survey conducted by Oklahoma State University's Jayson Lusk and Susan Murray.
Each month, Lusk and Murray ask about 1,000 people in the US about how much they are willing to pay for certain foods, especially meat. They also ask about people's awareness of certain food issues such as Salmonella and E. coli contamination as well as antibiotic use. This time, they added three ad hoc questions that asked whether respondents would favor certain government policies such as labeling the country of origin of meat, labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms, and those containing DNA.
As Lusk and Murray say in their survey report, a large majority of respondents — 82 percent — support mandatory GMO labels, and just about the same number of people — 80 percent — support mandatory labels on foods that contains DNA.
At the Washington Post, Ilya Somin writes that the survey results underscore both scientific ignorance and political ignorance in the US. "The most obvious explanation for the data is that most of these people don’t really understand what DNA is, and don’t realize that it is contained in almost all food," he adds.
Or, io9's Robbie Gonzalez says, people may not know the difference between a GMO food and DNA.
In a blog post, Oklahoma's Lusk notes that people's answers to the survey questions may not reveal "deeply held beliefs, but rather they often represent quick, gut reactions." For example, he adds that mandatory GMO labels poll highly, but ballot initiatives in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State have failed to get 50 percent of the vote.
At the Post, Somin has his idea of what such a warning label might look like:
WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.