High Organic Food Prices and GM Safety an Issue among Canadians

Guelph, ON

by Mary Wales — A recent study undertaken by Farmers Feed Cities (FFC) shows that organic foods are popular among consumers. Almost all of the respondents, or 97%, concur that food is important to them, and the study explores just what is on Canadians’ minds when it comes to the food on our plates.

The study is based on data collected in the Fall of 2012 through two online surveys of 1,504 randomly selected Canadian adults on the Angus Reid Forum (3008 respondents in total). According to FFC, the results were statistically weighted according to age, gender, region and education to ensure a sample representative of the entire population of Canada.

When it comes to organic and genetically modified food, the results were astounding and draw on some particular issues the organic sector will have to address to improve access to organic food.

While 29% of the Canadians surveyed buy organic food whenever possible, even more, or 43%, noted that they purchase non-genetically modified food whenever possible. Furthermore, it was found that 59% of those surveyed do not believe that genetically modified food is safe for consumption.

“Many Canadians question the safety of genetically modified foods and would prefer to know whether they are eating foods which have been made with GM ingredients,” notes Jodi Koberinski, Executive Director of the Organic Council of Ontario. “Whether it is GM labelling propositions or demands for a strengthened, evidence-based approval process – consumers are voicing their concern around the issue in different ways.”

One important attribute – price – is stopping Canadians from filling their carts with more organic food. 64% of those surveyed agree that the cost of organic food is prohibitive, while a surprising 71% feel that organic food does not offer good value for money.  Encouragingly, 31% are willing to spend more for certified organic products.

In terms of the perceived benefits, just over half of those surveyed think that organic food is better for their health, while 63% agree that organic food is better for the environment. With reduced pesticide use and management practices aimed at improving soil fertility, organic agriculture offers many environmental benefits.

With price identified as a limiting factor despite the perceived benefits of eating organic foods, policies and programs which are targeted at reducing the costs of organic foods and supporting direct-to-consumer sales or shortening the value chain will go a long way toward improving access to organics.

Furthermore, despite the perceived health and environmental benefits, businesses may have a challenge when it comes to explaining the higher prices of products to their customers. According to this research by FFC, it seems that price continues to be a central factor limiting organic food purchases.



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