GM foods –will they be back on the menu?

  • A new survey by the British Science Association shows that the proportion of the public concerned by GM crops is declining somewhat. The findings come at the same time as new evidence which shows that 90% of transgenic crop users in 2011 were resource- poor farmers – contrary to previous arguments that GM would only help large-scale industry. We also now know that drought-resistant GM crops could help maintain production in the UK.
  • The combination of new research could lead to a resurgence of political and industrial interest in UK GM, However, if government plan to pursue GM crop for its technical and economic benefits, the results of the BMA should be re-interpreted with caution.
  • Whilst the proportion of “very concerned” people had dropped from 23.6 to 17.2% between 2003 and 2012, overall, 46.5% of people are still concerned to some degree, 25% unconcerned, and 26.3% apathetic. The press release does also not reveal the change in numbers between those who support GM crops.
  • Previous research by Slovic tells us that risk perceptions change based on a multitude of factors, including how “current” the issue is, whether its “in our back yard”, and whether or not It affects future generations. As the GM debate becomes increasingly re-televised, and chances of GM crops being used in the British back yard, it is very likely that these perceptions will change once again.

A change to apathy may support a re-emergence of political interest, but Government and industry may need to consider the possibility of a rejuvenation of public interest, and work to better inform those who are currently undecided and do not understand the economic and environmental benefits/ risks associated with the technology.

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About Julia Chatterton

Systems modeller with a particular expertise in food, farming and agricultural systems. Working with life cycle assessment methods for over 4 years to assess and analyse the environmental burdens associated with food and other production systems.
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