Monday, 12 May 2008

Will food shortages change consumer views on GM?

I have been to several conferences and meetings this week where there has been a discussion on genetically modified foods. With the current food shortages and rising food prices there has been a focus on whether we in Europe in order to improve yields and efficiency should grow GM crops.

Whenever I try to have a balanced discussion on GM foods, I find it almost impossible and because I am a food scientist people often ask me questions such as:

What is GM food?

How do we know if we have eaten it, or meat from an animal that has eaten it?

Should food be labelled so that we can make a choice if we want to eat it?

Who benefits most from the GM revolution?

What information should we trust? Who should we trust?

The GM debate is as much about fear, dread and trust i.e. perception as it is about science and risk probably more so. Recent US research has concluded that in the US that only 52% of Americans realised that genetically modified foods are sold in grocery stores and only 26% believed that they have ever eaten genetically modified foods. The site WebMD has published a very interesting article on this research and generally on GM foods from a US perspective which seeks to answer some of these questions.

Marion Nestle, a leading US nutritionist and writer has a very informative blog. She writes about a range of food issues including GM.

Tolstoy once said that "True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important." I believe he is right.

First published in The Human Imprint


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