People who are most resistant to genetically modified foods, think they know a lot about food, but in fact they know less, according to paper reviewed in January in the magazine Nature of Human Behavior.
GMOs are widely considered safe by scientists, but opponents have said they want more science about the possible damage so that subjective arguments are not part of the equation. However, previous surveys have shown that providing more scientific GMO facts to people does not change their minds.
The survey, carried out by four universities, asked 2,000 people in Europe and the United States, as they knew about genetically modified food, what opinion and how intense it was.
Later, it asked for a series of true or false questions about science, from basic issues, as if the Earth's core is hot or cold to genetic questions, such as "Are genetically modified tomatoes genes?"
The results showed that the hardest people reported anti-GMOs, lowering their test.
"Many people are worried about genetically modified foods," said Sydney Scott, professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the scholastic students.
"We must get people to recognize gaps in their knowledge before we try to teach them new things and have a significant discussion," she added.
Opponents of genetically modified food do not place much stock in the study.
"The real bad science is that Food and Drug Administration does not try to eat food for modified food," said Alexis Baden-Mayer, a political director of the Anti-GMO Organic Consumers Association.
She said her organization wants to see "a complete scientific review of genetically modified food with updated tests."
Scott said that Baden-Mayer had a point and reinforced that the study was about the correlation of scientific knowledge and consumption, not just the science of GMO. But she said consumers are often less likely to learn the facts when it's something they feel very passionate, "especially if they feel it's challenging their moral values."
"So people could feel very much about genetically modified foods because it's very natural in a way that they find almost morally annoying," said Scott.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania also participated in the study, which was mainly paid by donations from the National Science Foundation.
They plan to continue with more studies on how the results can play in other controversial scientific issues including vaccinations, nuclear power and homeopathic medicine.