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Research shows Euros more optimistic about biotech

Research shows Euros more optimistic about biotech

The recent Eurobarometer survey conducted in Europe shows European consumers are much more positive about biotechnology in 2002 than they were in 1999. According to the survey 44% of those who expressed an opinion were positive while only 17% were pessimistic.

The survey shows the trend of opinion has now reversed since 1999.

A majority of Europeans do not support GM foods but, on a country by country basis, the survey discloses increases in support for GM food from the majority of EU countries - Italy, France and the Netherlands excepted.

The 16,500 respondents who took part in the survey were also asked whether or not they would buy or consume GM food. The majority say they wouldn’t.

However, because of the absence of GM products in European shops, the authors of the survey felt the responses reflected the views of Europeans as citizens rather than as consumers.

“The survey results show just how hard it is to determine exactly what it is people will do until they have the option of GM foods available on the shelves of their supermarket,” the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston said today.

“More Europeans say they will not buy or consume GM foods. However, we know there’s often a huge gap between intention and what we actually do as consumers. There is quite a lot of research which shows that the way in which a food is presented in the supermarket has a huge effect. A study done some years ago, with a non-GM food item, showed very high rejection at the supermarket door while sales showed more than 60% acceptance - a reversal of the survey outside.

“There’s also the experience of European shoppers with Zeneca GM tomato puree, which out-competed other brands before it was withdrawn from the market because of supply problems.

“The Eurobarometer authors warn against interpreting the results as a vote for or against GM food. They note that the dialogue about gene technology is still developing in Europe.

“They point out that while there may be rejection of GM foods by some Europeans there is still a very sizeable potential market for GM products if they were labelled appropriately to point out the benefits from less pesticide use and to the environment,” concluded Dr Rolleston.

Reference: Europeans and Biotechnology in 2002 (Gaskell, Allum & Stares)

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