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Revealed: why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Revealed: why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public.

epa03907292 Belgian activists protest against the US chemical corporation Monsanto and their role in making Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Brussels, Belgium, 12 October 2013. Belgian anti-GMO activists joined a global protest against Monsanto who make GMOs as well as many toxic chemicals including pesticides, plastics and artificial food additives.  EPA/THIERRY ROGE

epa03907292 Belgian activists protest against the US chemical corporation Monsanto and their role in making Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Brussels, Belgium, 12 October 2013. Belgian anti-GMO activists joined a global protest against Monsanto who make GMOs as well as many toxic chemicals including pesticides, plastics and artificial food additives. EPA/THIERRY ROGE

 

From the 30 June 2015 article at The Conversation

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative light.

GM divides opinion, and even individual people can find themselves pulled in two different ways. On the one hand it is a largely new technology and new tech often brings prosperity, solves problems and offers hope for the future. But this also makes it a step into the unknown and people are frightened of what they do not know, or what cannot be known.

In a study recently published in the journal Appetite, colleagues and I examined why some people reject GM technology. We were neither arguing for nor against GM, but rather we wanted to look at the characteristics which determine people’s views.

Specifically, we examined attitudes in the EU to two different types of genetic modifications made to apples. Both involve the introduction of genes to make them resistant to mildew and scab. The first is a gene that exists naturally in wild/crab apples. This is an example of what is called “cisgenesis”. In the second one the gene is from another species such as a bacterium or animal, and is an example of “transgenesis”.

As an idea of the gains available from this process, the production of a new apple cultivar may take 50 years or more. Gene transfer technologies can substantially shorten this. At the same time they may introduce characteristics from totally alien species which is virtually impossible to do naturally. This may then introduce many desirable qualities into the apple – for instance, in the hypothetical case we are analysing, the apples were made more resistant to disease.

We found people’s attitudes tend to be driven by their fears of risk, and their hopes of gain, with hopes being more important for cisgenesis (introduced genes from other apples) and the former for transgenesis (genes from other species).

But quite separate to risk and gain are perceptions that the technologies are “not natural”. Evidently people are disturbed when science takes us away from what they see as the laws of nature. People are also concerned about environmental impact.


People are more united in their disapproval of transgenesis (adding genes from other species). But, again, more educated people tend to be more approving as do men and the more prosperous, while older people tend to be more wary. Finally, for both technologies studying science, or having a father who studied science, impacted favourably on attitude

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July 17, 2015 - Posted by | Nutrition | ,

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