Public concern over GM food has lessened, survey shows

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PublicationThe Guardian (यूके)

Author(s) — By Adam Vaughan

तारीख — मार्च 9, 2012

वेबसाइट — www.guardian.co.uk

The UK public’s concern over genetically modified भोजन has softened in the past decade, according to a new survey.

A quarter of Britons are now unconcerned by जीएम भोजन, compared with 17% nearly a decade ago, when supermarkets debated whether to introduce GM products following widespread public opposition and attacks on GM test fields in the 1990s. The number of peopleconcernedabout GM has also fallen by 5%, said the Populus survey, commissioned by the British Science Association and published on Friday.

The poll comes as the EU prepares to vote on a Danish-led proposal to allow member states to ban the cultivation of GM crops on a country-by-country basis, with the UK concerned that the proposal will not achieve its aims.

British political support for a new push on GM is currently at a high watermark, with both agriculture minister Jim Paice telling farmers in January that GM crops could massively help food production, and Labour’s shadow environment minister, Mary Creagh, calling for more money for GM research. Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary,said last month that growing GM crops was likely to be considered as part of the solution to the drought currently engulfing much of south-east England. में her first interview when appointed secretary of state in 2010, she signalled the government would be pro-GM, कहावत “the principle of GM technology is [OK] if used well.

But in 2003, a nationwide debate involving 650 public meetings on whether to introduce GM crops to the UK showed more than half of the population never wanted to see the crops grown in the UK. The backlash put a brake on hopes by biotech companies and then-prime minister Tony Blair to exploit the technology in the UK.

The new polling shows opposition has weakened, साथ 15.2% की 2,058 people beingfairly unconcernednow compared with 6% की 1,363 citizens in 2003. The “very unconcernedcount has remained largely the same, while the proportion ofvery concernedpeople has dropped from 23.8% तक 17.2%.

Europe has had what is effectively a ban on GM crops since 1999, but last year the European Commission paved the way for countries to impose country-by-country bans on the cultivation of crops. As part of the proposal, governments will be asked to be more flexible in authorising crops at EU level. But despite the new polling, a push by the coalition to introduce GM crops in the UK would attract both praise from a revitalised GM industry and protests from fiercely opposed green groups.

Professor Maurice Moloney, chief executive of Rothamsted Research Institute, said that more needed to be done to engage the UK public on the benefits of GM: “The survey suggests that the UK public is interested in the end uses and real benefits of GM technology, rather than harbouring blanket scepticism. तथापि, the large number of ‘neither agree nor disagreeanswers suggests that scientists still have much work to do in public engagement, if the UK public are to benefit to the same extent as the 29 other countries who currently grow GM crops commercially.

The poll shows the British public need more information on the benefits and risks. Nearly half (44%) said they did not know if GM crops would be good for the UK economy, while a similar number (48%) said they did not know if it would be safe for future generations.

मार्क Lynas, an environmentalist and author who ripped up GM crops in the 1990s and later became a supporter of the technology, कहा: “Opposition to GMs was perhaps understandable a decade ago, but today it is a mistake. The science is clear that genetic modification in food crops is nothing to be scared of, and in fact can help address numerous environmental challenges, such as the need to raise yields whilst using less water, pesticides and fertiliser.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP and Green party leader, कहा: “If the government or the agri-business lobby think that this industry-sponsored poll is a sign of wholesale public support for GM foods, then they are completely out of touch with reality. For decades, public opinion polls have consistently shown opposition to GM, not least because huge concerns remain about the environmental impact of this technology, the risks associated with cross-contamination for the future of non-GM food, and the dangers of placing ever more control of food production in the hands of big GM corporations.

The issue may have gone off the boil since Tony Blair’s failed attempts to persuade us to accept GM, but as soon as people get an inkling that it is back on the menu, no amount of industry lobbying or positive PR from the government will prevent resistance to genetically modified foods.

Professor Joyce Tait, scientific adviser at the ESRC Innogen Centre, said of the survey: “There seems to have been a move away from the extremes, to the middle ground, with answers often being categorised as ‘don’t know’. That neutral ground seemed to happen across the board. I didn’t see that as a challenge to do more public engagement, rather I saw that to mean that it was becoming less contentious.

Four countries – Canada, the US, Brazil and Argentina – grow more than 90% of the world’s GM crops, और अधिक से अधिक 80% of the GM seeds sold each year are owned and sold by one company, मोनसेंटो. GM acreage grew 8% globally last year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotic Applications, which is funded by GM companies including Monsanto, Bayer CropScience and CropLife International.

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