Study finds consumers confused about local, organic foods

05/28/2014 09:43:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

click image to zoomlocal tomatoesVicky BoydWhen it comes to the differences between local and organic foods, near one-fifth of consumers involved in a survey were confused and didn't know the difference.

Results from research conducted by the University of Florida and four other universities aims to help local and organic producers better communicate with consumers and dispel some of their misunderstandings, according to a news release.

Also involved in the study were the University of Connecticut, Texas A&M University, Purdue University and Michigan State University. They published their findings in the May issue of "International Food and Agribusiness Management Review."

The online survey involved 2,511 people in the United States and Canada in 2011.

It found that 17 percent of consumers used the terms local and organic interchangeably.

“If consumers can distinguish between local and organic, then by buying organic, they will be able to reduce their exposure to synthetic pesticides,” Hayk Khachatryan, with the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, said in the release. “However, there is no guarantee that organic is grown locally. Before reaching the consumer, organic produce may travel long distances, which involves some level of environmental footprint.”

Along the same line, locally produced food may not be the most sustainable choice if it can be grown elsewhere and transported for less, according to the release.

The survey also found that 22 percent of respondents said they believed that local meant non-genetically modified or that it didn't contain GMOs—genetically modified organisms.

Exact figures for local food production is difficult to determine because of differing definitions.

But a U.S. Department of Agriculture study pegged U.S. production at $4.8 billion in 2008.

Clouding the perception of local is Canada is changing its definition of local.

Interim rules define it as food produced in the province or territory in which it is sold or food sold within 50 kilometers—about 32 miles—of the originating provide or territory.

Organic, on the other hand, must meet a set of strict USDA or similar Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines and then be verified by a third party. Essentially, organic means it has been produced without synthetic inputs, sewage sludge or GMOs.

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Jane Peters    
Indianapolis, IN.  |  June, 02, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Organic to me means free of man made poisons, and transgenes. I.e. similar to what Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden.

Dr. JRF    
Marietta  |  June, 22, 2014 at 09:07 PM

So, Jane, you are not opposed to natural poisons, just the ones that are man made, is that correct? Are you aware that some of the most highly toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, and otherwise outright dangerous chemicals come from natural sources, for example the fungi that attack plants, and the plants themselves. Chemical warfare between plants and their pests has been going on ever since creation. Toxic chemicals from natural sources frequently contaminate our food supplies if they are not prevented by human intervention. I'm quite sure that Adam and Eve got quite a dose of such toxins, since they were ignorant of worldly things back then. If you are thinking that Adam and Eve didn't eat transgenic food then probably you aren't aware that genes were being transferred even in the Garden of Eden by bacteria and viruses that lived in the soil and in the very plants and animals that Adam and Eve surely ate. Transgenics has been going on since the creation of life on this planet, and it goes on right now, all around you & me, all by natural means.

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