Researchers with the University of Florida, Michigan State University, Purdue University and Texas A&M University, discovered nearly one in five surveyed still confuse the terms, according to a news release.
The finding is dismaying because consumers should know the difference so they recognize what they’re buying at a time when more people are buying local and organic food, according to the release.
In an online survey, researchers surveyed 2,511 people in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17% thought the terms were interchangeable, according to the release.
Another finding showed 22% incorrectly thought local means non-genetically modified, according to the release.
As several states are considering or have adopted GMO regulations, consumers should know that product labeled local does not imply non-GMO, researchers stated in the release.
"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, a university food and resource economics assistant professor, 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."
The study was published in the May edition of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, bit.ly/1nCzysc.