Over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA”

Jan 19, 2015

By Ilya Somin

recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” about the same number as support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.” Oklahoma State economist Jayson Lusk has  some additional details on the survey. If the government does impose mandatory labeling on foods containing DNA, perhaps the label might look something like this:

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.

The Oklahoma State survey result is probably an example of the intersection between scientific ignorance and political ignorance, both of which are widespread.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. When they read that a strange substance called “DNA” might be included in their food, they might suspect that this is some dangerous chemical inserted by greedy corporations for their own nefarious purposes.

Polls repeatedly show that much of the public is often ignorant of both basic scientific facts, and basic facts about government and public policy. Just before the 2014 elections, which determined control of Congress, only 38 percent realized that the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives before the election, and the same number knew that the Democrats control the Senate. The public’s scientific knowledge isn’t much better. A 2012 National Science Foundation survey even found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. Issues like food labeling bring together political and scientific knowledge, and it is not surprising that public opinion on these subjects is very poorly informed.


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45 comments on “Over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA”

  • 1
    old-toy-boy says:

    Is this some sort of joke? Surely most foods contain DNA, apart from salt, suger, vinegar and meringues? anyone think of any others?
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  • This harks back to the survey on the (appalling) extent of di-hydrous oxide that had been found throughout the nations river systems, and dams, and its involvement every year in numerous deaths.

    The level of education in the US of A just gets transparently worse and worse, and that is without bringing sky fairies into the arguement.
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  • DNA being slipped into our foods is pretty scary stuff.

    But there is good news as well. – – – The Food Industry is starting to include less of that deadly poison, Sugar in our packaged foods. It is being replaced with evaporated cane juice.
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  • Remember: Water contains 99.9% of all known germs

    Also, Ban This Filth:

    Dihydrogen Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

    There is a chemical that has been used for well over one hundred years and its use must be stopped! The Association for Environmental Activism is dedicated to seeing that its use comes to a swift end. Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is colorless, odorless, tasteless and kills thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there.

    Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting, and body electrolyte imbalance.

    Contamination is reaching epidemic proportions in many modern societies. Dozens of arid countries have spent millions of dollars in research money to extract it in its pure form from our planet’s oceans. Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest and recently in California.

    Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used as an industrial solvent, in nuclear power plants, in the production of styrofoam and as a fire retardant.

    Pharmaceutical companies have put DHMO to use in large quantities in conjunction with many forms of cruel animal research. It has been linked to the distribution of pesticides and is often sprayed on crops of all kind. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.

    Nutritionists have recognized DHMO as an additive in certain food products for decades but have been reluctant to speak out to the public about the vast quantities of this chemical being used in most foods.

    Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

    The horror must be stopped!

    Our government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its “importance to the economic health of this nation.” In fact, the Navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations.

    Hundreds of military and civilian research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use. It’s not too late! Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about this dangerous chemical. What you don’t know can hurt you and others throughout the world!

    Ask a chemist, your local high school science teacher, or university chemistry professor about the exact composition of this chemical!

    The Facts

    Also called hydroxl acid or dihydrous oxide, it is a component of acid rain.
    It contributes to the “greenhouse effect.”
    It may cause severe burns as a vapor.
    It contributes to the erosion of our beautiful natural landscape.
    Accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals and may be affecting your car.
    Causes electrical failure and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
    It has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.
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  • This reminds me of the Jaywalking segment on Jay Leno where he would ask questions of random people on the street. The degree of ignorance was astounding. It is no wonder crooks can sell religion and climate change conspiracies when we still have flat earthers.
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  • To be fair, I would hazard a guess if you asked these subjects the next day what they had been asked they would have said “Do you favour mandatory labelling for GMO foods”.

    It is a bit of a trick question.
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  • It’s a scam question. Nearly all our food has DNA in it. It’s like the Di Hydro Monoxide scam mentioned above. The actual purpose of the survey was to test the American public’s understanding of science. And they failed big time. They didn’t just fail, they should be sent back to junior class.
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  • 15
    Lorenzo says:

    Why stopping at “contains DNA”?

    WARNING: this package gontains FOOD, a class of substances and compounds that the Surgeon General associates with choking, heart diseases, morbid obesity and countless other health hazards and potentially lethal pathologies. Ingest at your own peril.

    And let’s see how many geniuses starve to death to be on the safe side…
    Anyhow: kudos for the prank on 80% of the Americans. The bit about pregnant women is a real masterpiece.
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  • It’s worse than that David. I know these people……..I have to live with them.

    I think we should remove from their food, all the dna, di hydro monoxide and any thing else that confuses them. That complicated stuff with more than one syllable.
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  • It has to be said, when I was making corned-beef sandwiches when I was a kid , I used to get loads of my own DNA in it – after invariably opening up a cut on my hands whilst trying to use the key to open the tin……
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  • The public’s scientific knowledge isn’t much better. A 2012 National Science Foundation survey even found that about 25% of Americans don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa.

    I’m reminded of the Eurobarometer survey in the appendix of The Greatest Show on Earth, in which a survey asked that question to European recipients and got depressing results. Here’s the Eurobarometer report. You can see for yourself just how poor common knowledge of science was back in 2001:

    http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_154_en.pdf

    There’s a more up-to-date one dating to 2005, which is a little more positive, but you can still see vast room for improvement:

    http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_224_report_en.pdf

    Particularly interesting in the second one is the map on page 47 showing which countries had the highest percentages, and the demographic breakdown a couple of pages before that:

    Results by socio-demographic characteristics show certain significant disparities
    between categories.
    Men have a higher rate (70%) of correct answers than women (62%).
    Populations aged 15 to 54 have considerably higher rates of correct answers than the
    oldest populations aged 55 and above (59%).
    The education levels show significant disparities as well. While those who went to
    school until the age of 15 or less have an average rate of 53% of correct answers,
    those who studied until the age of 20 or above show an average of 76%.
    Among the different occupations, students (74%) and managers (78%) show the
    highest knowledge in this quiz, while house persons have a significantly lower result
    (56%).
    Finally, if we look at the frequency of attending religious services, we can note that the
    more religious one is the less one tends to give correct answers in this quiz on science.
    While those who attend religious services more than once a week have an average rate
    of 54% of correct answers, those who never attend reach a rate of 70%.

    You can definitely tell where work needs to be done to raise public awareness of science in the EU. I wonder how countries globally would fare on the survey if one was applied outside the EU.
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  • Labelling genetically modified food would be a good start, but I think the bigger issue is a coercive, almost monopolistic free market economy that endangers people even with non-GM foods for the profit motive. You get the same problems with pharmaceutical companies trying to dodge anything like a scientifically rigorous health and safety check, or even basic medical trials to demonstrate the drugs they sell actually cure anything. As usual, follow the money.
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  • 27
    old-toy-boy says:

    I did read it, basically it demonstrated the ignorance of the American public, Not to sure if the Brits would do that much better, On the other hand, the stylised picture of DNA above is just as stupid. Nevertheless it just got me thinking, what foods do not contain DNA? (is water a food?).
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  • 29
    KrustyG says:

    Some people have even claimed it has memory, and that memory can be used to cure all kinds of disease in appropriate doses! We need to stop these people from peddling these s0-called chemical cures pronto. (Wait a minute, that last sentence wasn’t a joke…)
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  • 32
    old-toy-boy says:

    I Understand that eggs are single celled organisms, The DNA is in the yolk part, not the egg white, and vinegar is acetic acid. (OK, I admit to mentioning the meringes as deliberate bait, you have my permission to call me a smart arse).
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  • Yes, and we definitely need more food information cuz we are being bombarded by all kinds of fake nutritionists and is getting really hard to make a difference which information is correct, thnx.
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  • While you have a point Phil, picking to only on the Americans is a bit unfair. (No, I’m not one of them, and don’t live there).
    Such ignorance is very wide spread everywhere, and the only way to combat it is through rigorous scientific education.
    Truth be told, I was actually surprised 20% were smart enough to actually understand the question and know what DNA was. jcw
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  • Jeton Jan 22, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Yes, and we definitely need more food information cuz we are being bombarded by all kinds of fake nutritionists

    Fake nutritionists usually call themselves “dieticians”!
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  • Meringues are made with egg white I assume has DNA of a chicken in it, Vinegar is produced through a fermentation process of some form of plant material and bacteria have rudimentary DNA in them. Sugar is a product of either cane or beet root which are living organisms which originally contained DNA though the crystallization process may have brought them down to their original chemical element of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen molecules. So almost everything we eat will at least at one time contained DNA.
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  • Gord Jan 23, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Food without DNA is what I would be concerned about

    The quack slimming industry is making fortunes from those products!

    (I’ll just have a glass of zero calory water {free edition} not bottled)
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  • 44
    Norbert says:

    I think we should endorse this DNA labeling. It will force people to learn about it. Can we not find more issues were we can label products in such a way that there is only one possible outcome: People learning something when they never intended to do that?
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  • I think that any competent social scientist might have deep concerns about the nature of this study and its reporting. One could start with the weighted sample of 1000 people surveyed which, even so, is unlikely to represent the US population as a whole. The construction of the survey puts the question about DNA labelling in the midst of other, more sensible, questions as calorie and GM labels and fruit and veggies in schools lunches. It is easy to misinterpret this answer either as a belief or an estimate of the attention span of the respondent. Then there is a item asking for the name the most recent food/agriculture book the respondent has read. Is this a general knowledge test or a homework assignment?

    In summary, your average people on the street may be pretty clueless, but you don’t want to stack the deck against them. Please report good science.

    The data from this report, but not the paper, are at http://agecon.okstate.edu/faculty/publications/4975.pdf and http://agecon.okstate.edu/files/Survey%20Info%20(pdf4556).pdf such as they are.
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