A consumer survey conducted by AFIC
in five Asian countries shows that consumers are ready to accept
benefits from biotechnology-derived foods.
Genetically modified foods will most likely become an increasing
feature of the Asian diet in light of the region's growing
demand for high volumes of quality food, says a survey commissioned
by the Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC).
The survey was conducted by the Nielsen Company. It provides
insights on how consumers in Asia perceive the use of biotechnology
to produce foods and how likely it is consumers are accepting
the various benefits biotechnology derived foods may bring.
The research was conducted via an on-line survey of more than
1000 adults in China, India, Japan, Philippines and South Korea.
George Fuller, Executive Director of AFIC, commented: "This
recent survey is one of the few that objectively measures opinions
and perceptions of Asian consumers in relation to food biotechnology
and can be considered as a benchmark for the region. An important
outcome of the survey is that amidst heightened media attention
on food concerns, Asian consumers have high confidence in the
role food biotechnology can play for future food supply and
are open-minded about the various benefits food biotech products
Consumers in the food producing countries strongly believe
that food biotechnology will bring benefits in the next few
years: 73% of consumers in the Philippines believe biotechnology
will bring benefits to them or their family in the next 5
years, followed by India (70%) and China (55%). In Japan
(71%) and South Korea (45%) consumers are unsure about the
future potential of biotech food.
Food Biotechnology Benefits
Consumers were positive about the broad range of potential
benefits that biotechnology-derived foods can offer, expressed
by a high likelihood of buying such products. The most popular
benefits are country-dependant and can be linked to the dietary
habits and the food sensitivities in each country.
Chinese consumers favor nutritionally enhanced soy products
(82% are likely to buy such products), followed by reduced
pesticides use; Indian consumers indicated freshness and taste
as the most important attribute (84% are likely to by tastier
and fresher GM tomatoes) followed by less expensive foods;
in the Philippines less expensive food such as rice is popular
(98% likelihood) followed by products such as healthier cooking
oil (reduced in saturated and trans fats). Korean consumers
favor cooking oil and foods with a healthier oil profile, respectively
66% and 65% of the consumers indicate they are likely to buy
such products. In Japan, freshness and taste are the most preferred
Food Biotechnology and Sustainability
Although most Asian consumers are not familiar with the concept
of 'sustainable food production', once the concept is explained
a majority of the consumers believe sustainable food production
important. Asian consumers also largely accept plant biotechnology
if the technology contributes to a more sustainable way of
More than 90% of the consumers surveyed in China, India and
the Philippines support food production using plant biotechnology
if the technology contributes to sustainable food production.
In Japan and South Korea, where local agricultural production
is less important and where consumers are more dependant on
imported foods, at least two thirds of those surveyed accept
the technology in relation to sustainability.
Food and Biotech Labeling
The most important information consumers in Asia look for on
food labels is expiry date.
Presence of biotechnology-derived ingredients is not a labeling
None of those interviewed in China, India, Philippines and
Japan suggested the presence of biotechnology-derived ingredients
as an additional item to be included on labels. In South Korea,
a small number of consumers (3% of total respondents) mentioned
biotechnology contents as information to be added on labels.
"The results of this survey are encouraging for the further
development of food biotechnology in Asia since they indicate
that consumers are willing to accept the benefits that food
biotech products can bring", says Professor Paul Teng
of the National Sciences and Science Education, National Institute
of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. "The
new generation of biotechnology crops has the potential to
deliver foods with nutritional benefits and these foods should
be made available to Asian consumers."
According to Professor Paul Teng, another important outcome
of the survey is the acceptance by consumers in major food
producing countries like China and India of food biotechnology
to increase the production of food staples and to supply sustainable
food. The rapid growth in population and standard of living
in many Asian countries will lead to a higher demand for quality
foods and agricultural practices will have to adjust in order
to secure food to all.
Summary from the U.S. Food Biotechnology Consumer Attitudes
The results from the survey in Asia are in many ways comparable
to the preliminary results of a similar survey soon to be released
by the International Food Information Council in the U.S. For
example, crops produced through biotechnology do not generate
a high level of concern in the U.S., with most consumers either
favorable or neutral towards the technology. Consumers also
expressed a high likelihood of buying products produced through
biotechnology that have
potential benefits. In addition, most Americans support U.S.
policy, which does not require labeling for such foods except
in special situations. When asked about sustainability, U.S.
consumers believe it to be important and indicated that growing
more food to feed the
global population is the most important reason for sustainable
To access the summary report 'Consumer Perceptions of Food
Biotechnology in Asia: 2008 consumer survey',
For more information, please contact email@example.com.
For more information visit the Asian Food Information Centre
websit at www.afic.org.
About US: Asian Food Information Center is a Singapore
registered not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to
communicate science-base information on food safety, nutrition
health information to media, regulators, food/health professionals,
and consumers in the Asia region. For more information please
go to www.afic.org.