UK study highlights support for labelling of all GM food

Posted by James Ferre on 26th November 2009

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) published findings of a qualitative research project last night, which ascertained current public attitudes to genetically modified (GM) food.

The research found different levels of understanding about GM food.

“Attitudes to GM food are complex and the risks and benefits of GM food are weighed up differently depending on the factors that underpin views,” the FSA said.

The study discovered that those with positive views of GM food believed the potential benefit of an increase in food production outweighed the risks and they trusted the producers and regulators to make the right (and safe) choices.

In contrast, those with negative attitudes were particularly concerned about perceived health and environmental risks and unintended consequences relating to GM food and scepticism about the motivations of producers and regulators of GM food. Some of those with negative opinions had a lack of trust in the food industry due to previous food scares.

Those occupying the ‘middle ground’ tended to be either nonplussed or were after more research into the benefits and risks before forming a position.

“In terms of information content, people wanted to know more about the extent to which GM food is available; this reflected perceptions that information provided at the workshop about the prevalence of GM food was particularly surprising and useful,” the report advised. “In addition further information was requested about the potential long-term societal and personal impacts, and the potential consequences for animal welfare.”

Clear information was wanted from a range of different places, including in supermarkets.

“There was a lack of knowledge about how labelling and regulation currently works and a view that the current system is confusing. There was widespread support for labelling of all GM food products, including where GM is used as a processing aid or in animal feed.”

“The principles of transparency and consumer choice were clearly a priority for people holding a range of attitudes towards GM foods and this shaped their views on regulation and labelling,” the report concluded.