Australians “uncomfortable” with GM food

Posted by Isobel Drake on 5th February 2010

Australians remain uneasy about eating genetically modified (GM) foods, according to research from Swinburne University.

The University’s fifth National Science and Technology Monitor found most people well informed about GM but still very mistrustful of the institutions that commercialise GM foods.

“A major target of public mistrust is Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company that owns patents on over 90% of all commercial GM soy, corn, canola and cotton crops that are grown,” Gene Ethics director Bob Phelps asserted.

Swinburne’s survey asked 1,000 respondents how comfortable they are with GM plants for food and the latest average score was 3.9 on a scale of 10 where zero is ‘not at all comfortable’.

“It seems that public perceptions of GM agriculture have barely changed in the past five years,” said one of the study’s authors, Professor Michael Gilding.

“In the past, industry and governments adopted the approach ‘Trust us!’. In the contemporary age of climate change, stem cell research, nanotechnology and GM agriculture, this will not be enough. There will need to be more effort at transparency, participation and communication.”

Gene Ethics’ Mr Phelps argues the findings should coerce caution from governments and producers.

“Australian food processors and shoppers are adamant that fully labelled GM-free foods must remain an option and our governments must ensure they permanently remain on the shelves,” Mr Phelps concluded.