5 Dec 2008

Support for biotech strongest in RP - survey

Philippine consumers are aware of biotechnology benefits and do not have safety concerns with GMO, a recent survey by the Asian Food Information Centre (www.afic.org) shows.

The AFIC survey covered five Asian countries, namely China, India, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. It aimed to provide 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 survey findings for the Philippines indicate that consumers are knowledgeable and positive about food biotechnology. Consumers largely believe that biotechnology crops have the potential to deliver high quality, nutritional foods. A large majority of Philippine consumers also indicated that they accept biotechnology as a way to increase the production of food staples and to supply sustainable food. Compared to the other countries surveyed, support for biotechnology appears stronger in the Philippines.

Dr. George Fuller, executive director of AFIC, says: “Acceptance from Philippine consumers of crop biotechnology to produce nutritionally enhanced foods is an important outcome of this research. For instance, Golden Rice (enhanced in B-carotene to prevent vitamin A deficiency) is close to commercialization in the Philippines and the AFIC research shows that consumers in the country will accept this nutritionally superior rice.”

“The survey also indicates that food security is on the consumers’ mind and consumers support biotechnology’s potential for improving agricultural productivity”, added Dr. Fuller.

Key findings from the different areas included in the survey:

Plant biotechnology and food

Awareness about plant biotechnology is high in the Philippines and positively correlates with favorability and acceptance of biotechnology to produce foods.

Almost one in three Philippine consumers report that they are very knowledgeable about biotechnology and in total two thirds say they have at least some knowledge.

The majority of consumers (59 percent) have favorable impressions of plant biotechnology while 19 percent are neutral. A large majority (73 percent) of Philippine consumers believes that they would personally benefit from food biotechnology in the next five years. Key expected benefits are improved food quality and making food more affordable.

A vast majority of the surveyed consumers would be ready to purchase foods produced through biotechnology for specific benefits. More than 90 percent of the consumers would be likely to buy cheaper rice or rice with an increased nutritional value (like a higher vitamin A content) produced through biotechnology. Consumers expressed an equally high (greater than 90 percent) likelihood of buying biotechnology-derived foods such as cooking oil with reduced levels of saturated or trans fats or fresher and better tasting tomatoes.

Plant biotechnology and sustainability

Consumers in the Philippines are also very positive towards plant biotechnology if the technology is related to sustainable food production.

Although most of the consumers are not familiar with the concept of sustainable food production, once the concept is explained, 84 percent of the respondents believed sustainable food production is important. When asked to rank seven factors related to sustainable food production, Philippine consumers picked ‘increasing the production of food staples in the world, thereby reducing world hunger’ as the most important factor, and ‘increasing the productivity in the field and thus reducing production cost, thereby reducing the cost of food’ second.

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said they support food production using plant biotechnology if the technology delivers sustainable benefits.

Confidence in safety of food supply

The survey was conducted in July and August of 2008 and 71 percent of the respondents indicated to be neutral to confident with the food safety level in the country. When asked to rank specific food safety concerns, Philippine consumers indicated a rather high level of concern for many of the issues, with food poisoning, pesticides residue, and improper handling of food topping the list. Food biotechnology is much less of a concern compared to other food safety issues with none of the respondents citing this as a top of mind concern.

Food labeling

Almost three out of four respondents said they read food labels regularly. The kind of information that Philippine consumers normally look for on food labels include expiry date (most important information for 59 percent of the consumers), vitamin content (mentioned by 13 percent of the consumers as the most important info) and food additives (seven percent).

A majority of consumers (74 percent) state that there is no information they would like to see added to food labels. Those who are not satisfied with the current information on food labels said they would like to have additional information about the content (presence of vitamins, minerals and other basic ingredients) and expiration/production dates.

GM labeling is not a spontaneous labeling demand, none of the respondents suggested presence of GM ingredients as an additional item to be included on food labels.

Compared to the other surveyed countries, consumers in the Philippines appear to be most knowledgeable about food biotechnology and the increased awareness positively correlates with acceptance.

The survey also shows that crops produced through biotechnology do not generate a high level of concern. In addition, although most Asian consumers are not familiar with the concept of “sustainable food production,” once the concept is explained, a majority believe sustainable food production is important and accept plant biotechnology if the technology contributes to a more sustainable way of producing foods. Asian consumers are also ready to accept nutritional benefits from biotechnology-derived foods. However, specific benefits are linked to the dietary habits in each country. Consumers from the food producing countries, China, India and the Philippines, tend to be more positive about food biotechnology and the benefits it can bring compared to consumers from Korea and Japan, where local agricultural production is less important.


AFIC commissioned The Nielsen Company Research to conduct a quantitative assessment of adult consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology from July 15 to Aug. 15, 2008. The research was conducted via an on-line survey of 1007 adults, aged 18 to 64 years, and living in five major cities in five different countries. The number of respondents for each city was: Beijing - 200; New Delhi - 204; Manila - 200; Seoul - 202 and Tokyo - 201.

Quotas were set to best reflect the demographic population in the cities.

About Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) Singapore registered not-for-profit organization, its mission is to effectively communicate science-base information on food safety, nutrition and health information to media, regulators, food/health professionals, and consumers in the Asia region.

For more information, please contact infor@afic.org or visit the Asian Food Information Centre website www.afic.org


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