The presence and labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food has been hotly debated by consumers, manufacturers, scientists and governments alike. A new Harris Poll ( reveals consumers’ awareness of and perspectives on GMO labeling.

Nearly six in 10 Americans (58%) say they’re familiar with the GMO debate, with 15% very familiar and 43% somewhat familiar.

The GMO debate has led to many questions on the topic. Are GMOs bad for us? Should labeling be mandatory on food that contains them? A majority of consumers believe there are simply too many unknowns about their long-term impact. Given these unknowns, the debate evokes strong emotions, making the more scientific industry position harder to convey.

Recent state ballot initiatives in support of GMO labeling have created a patchwork of laws and challenges for food manufacturers; however, supporters believe enforcement of regulations should come from the federal government.

“This response from the public makes one thing clear: consumers are ripe to support regulations requiring the labeling of GMOs. Food manufacturers would be wise to deepen their understanding of how these attitudes could impact their business and what they can do to limit the risk to their reputation and license to operate,” says Sarah Simmons, vice president & senior consultant, Reputation Management & Public Affairs Practice at The Harris Poll.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,015 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 29 and May 3, 2016:

  • Most Americans say labeling products containing GMOs is a health and safety issue (81%), not an environmental one (19%). Additionally, the real worry is the unknown: the majority (58%) agreed that because there have been no long term studies, we simply don’t know the impact on human health, pesticide use or growth of super weeds/superbugs.
  • Overall, 75% are in support of GMO labeling legislation and 78% of supporters feel it should be mandated by the federal government as opposed to the state government.
  • When looking specifically at GMO labeling, a large majority (80%) agree that there should be mandatory GMO labeling as consumers have a right to know what is in their food or whether it has been altered or changed in some way that is not natural and could impact consumer health.