OMG GMO! Parent-child conversations about genetically modified foods

Andrew Shtulman, Ilana Share, Rosie Silber-Marker, Asheley R. Landrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Studies indicate that Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are safe to consume, but many adults remain skeptical. What kind of input are children receiving about GMOs? And how does that input shape their understanding of what GMOs are? We investigated this question in the context of parent-child conversations about food product decisions. Seventy parent-child dyads were shown a series of food product pairings and asked to discuss their preferences. The products differed by whether they were made from GMOs, as well as whether they contained gluten and whether they were grown organically. Non-GM foods were preferred over gluten-free foods, and conversations about GM foods contained more moral language than conversations about gluten. Preferences for organic foods equaled preferences for non-GM foods, and conversations about organic foods were as morally charged, but parents were less knowledgeable about the meaning of GMO than they were about the meaning of organic. Children's knowledge of these terms varied with their parents’ knowledge, and their participation in the food-product conversations varied with their parents’ use of moral language. Taken together, these findings suggest that children's conceptions of GMOs are shaped by their parents’ conceptions, despite the fact that parents’ preferences and attitudes toward GMOs outstrip their knowledge of what GMOs actually are.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100895
JournalCognitive Development
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Conceptual development
  • Folkbiology
  • Food cognition
  • Parent-child conversation


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