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What do Consumers Believe About Food and Food Systems?

June 20, 2022 | Letters

Jinho Jung, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics, and Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics

Following our previous looks into food expenditures and the sustainability index, this week we continue with the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability (CFDAS)’s Consumer Food Insights, looking at beliefs by U.S. consumers regarding various aspects of the food system.

Most U.S. consumers surveyed agreed that climate change will impact their food prices; however, there is relatively less agreement that agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change. More people agree that local food is better for the environment albeit there is no such scientific link between local food and the environment. Last summer, there was a whole series of letters using entirely different datasets than that being explored here and investigated local production and tackled the nuances associated with this linkage for many consumers between local production and products being environmentally friendly. Whilst the truth is that there are complex considerations for environmental impacts of production ranging from what is even possible to produce in certain climates to the transportation impacts associated with moving inputs to production versus finished products, the linkage between local and environmentally friendly persists in consumers’ minds. Another mis-match between scientific evidence and consumer perception surrounds the safety of genetically modified food. Only 37% of consumers agree genetically modified food is safe to eat while, scientific findings suggest that it is no riskier to consume genetically modified food.