A new study finds nearly one in five Americans confuse “local” with “organic.”

The study shows that while the organic industry has spent millions of dollars to build brand awareness, some consumers are still confused.

Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author, explained that consumers surveyed confused “organic” and “local” food products.

“If consumers can distinguish between local and organic, then by buying organic, they will be able to reduce their exposure to synthetic pesticides,” said Khachatryan, with the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “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.”

Additionally, more than 20 percent of consumers surveyed incorrectly thought “local” implied non-genetically modified. Campbell points that while several states have – or are debating – GMO labeling and regulations, a locally-labeled product could contain GMO ingredients.

“We are not saying GMO is bad or good, but rather that local does not imply GMO-free,” he said.Local and organic products have seen increasing consumer demand over the last decade, with sales of organic products reaching $26.7 billion in the U.S. and $2.6 billion in Canada in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association, a group that promotes organic food producers and related industries.

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