So people aren’t necessarily averse to GMOs specifically?
Not really. I mean, they are, but it's part of a more general aversion to biotechnology, to things people don't understand.
In a lot of ways, I think it’s akin to anything that appears on a label that says “may contain X,” where X is literally anything people haven’t heard of or don’t understand, and because of that, sounds somewhat strange.
We actually tested this with a label on apples that said “this apple is ripened using ethylene,” which is a very commonly used and safe process. But people were as averse to those apples as they were to GMOs, simply because they didn’t know what ethylene was.
People aren’t really differentiating a whole lot in between these things. They are just unfamiliar, scary sounding things about food.
Fear of GMOs holds a lot of lessons for innovation in biotechnology. I wasn't around for the introduction of milk pasteurization or microwaves, both were already widely accepted in my lifetime, so perhaps consumer fear of GMOs are just a phase, like white-washed jeans and regular fit men's dress shirts.