A new UK study has found that more public understanding on GM technology does not help overcome existing fears.
A 6 week long government-sponsored consultation process on the public acceptance of GM food in the United Kingdom was concluded with the publication of a report on 24 September 2003, stating that the British public still feels uneasy with genetic modification. Not only the safety and health implications of the technology, but also the broader social and political issues, are viewed with scepticism.
Many people said they felt badly informed about GM. However, the study also revealed that the hostility towards genetic modification grows stronger with increased knowledge - the more people knew about the technology, the more likely they were to harbour strong concerns about the risks involved, particularly the long-term effects on human health.
There was a strong feeling that more research was needed to establish a set of widely agreed "facts" to serve as a basis for political decisions. Commercialisation of GM crops should only be started when clear benefits to society have been demonstrated.
There was mistrust in politicians and multi-national companies, and particularly in their motives, intentions and behaviour. The public believes that big businesses are primarily driven by profit considerations rather than responding to the needs of society, and that they have too big an influence in the political decision-making process.
More than 37,000 people participated in the consultation, which was the most wide ranging to date in Europe. The findings come at a time of heated EU-wide debate on the future of GM food in Europe.