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3 Food: CONSUMERS INCREASINGLY SCEPTICAL OVER GM FOODS




This is from the European Report 22 March

GENETIC ENGINEERING: CONSUMERS INCREASINGLY SCEPTICAL OVER GM FOODS

European consumers are increasingly sceptical over genetically-engineered food and food produced using industrial rearing, according to an annual survey published by the international analysts Healey and Beaker. In total, 65% of those questioned in 1999 indicated that they did not wish to purchase goods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), compared with 61% in 1998. Positions have hardened in Great Britain (opposition rising from 57 to 63%), France (from 69 to 75%) and Portugal (from 55 to 60%). These figures corroborate similar findings published recently by a team of European scientists in the context of the Community's FLAIR (Food linked Agri-Industry Research) research programme.

Carried out between September and October 1999, the survey of consumer sentiment questioned 7,157 people over 16 in 12 European countries in food retail outlets. A good half of those questioned expressed a preference for animal products not produced using industrial livestock rearing techniques. Greatest resistance to the produce of industrial farming was recorded in Portugal (76%), France (72%) and Italy (68%). Given a choice, some 67% of European consumers prefer food produced domestically, the most patriotic being the Swedes, Spanish and Poles. 79% of those questioned, expressed a preference for fresh over frozen foods.

European research project.

Empirical research into the attitude of consumers towards genetic engineering in foods conducted under the EU's FLAIR programme drew the same conclusion as the Healey and Beaker survey: Consumers are still extremely sceptical about whether the final product they buy does or does not contain genetically-modified organisms. Scientists conducted their survey in Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In order to obtain results reflecting consumer attitudes and behaviour, the researchers used the example of two specific products offering different advantages to consumers, beer made with GM yeast and yoghurt containing GM fermenting agents. Their findings show that consumers are highly sceptical about the idea of applying genetic modifications to food production, whether or not the final product contains genetically-engineered organisms. Scepticism is mainly attributed to the view that such techniques provide few benefits and the concern about undesirable and uncontrolled c!
onsequences (risks). Consumers' attitudes differ slightly from one country to anther. The Danes and Germans are least likely to countenance genetic engineering techniques in food production. Finally, the survey found that consumer behaviour is not influenced to any great extent by the various types of information provided.




Steve Emmott
Advisor-Genetic Engineering
Greens/European Free Alliance Group
European Parliament
1047 Brussels

Tel/fax +32 2 284 2026