Prince Charles made tabloid headlines this week with his angry attack on genetically modified foods. Are they on the way out for good? Or could they have a future after all asks Michele Sadler Research from the IGD suggests that there are four possible scenarios for the future of foods in the UK made using genetically modified ingredients. The first is outright consumer rejection, with no GM products developed. The second involves the development of niche markets for GM foods. The third sees GMOs becoming mainstream. And the fourth is complete market acceptance of GM technology. The first scenario is the current reality within the UK, but a "fortress" mentality which sees Britain and perhaps Europe taking a lone stand against GMOs will lead to major tensions between trading partners. And, if farmer take-up of the technology continues to grow elsewhere in the world, sourcing non-GM supplies will become increasingly difficult and costly for UK food producers. If, on the other hand, more countries follow the UK's lead, the possibility of the world market rejecting GMOs becomes increasingly likely. There's no doubt that consumers here have genuine and deep-rooted concerns ­ as evidenced by the removal of GM soya from products by retailers and manufacturers. But a comprehensive rejection of GM technology and products would force the food industry to go further ­ removing GM ingredients from commodity crops, additives, enzymes and processing aids, animal feeds, vaccinations, packaging and even some non-food products. For GMOs to become established as a niche market, on the other hand, products with overwhelming consumer benefits that can't be met by any other method would have to be developed, says the IGD ­ or else they must be products for which GM-free sources would simply make manufacturing costs prohibitive. For a niche GM sector to become established, traceability is essential, but, depending on how consumer opinions evolve, such products may end up being imported to the UK under license while farmers and others continue to be banned from growing them here. In any case, it will probably take between five to ten years to find such a niche. IGD consumer research revealed that there is likely to be a more positive response to GM products which offer clear consumer benefits ­ such as enhanced vitamin content, removal of allergens, or reduced fat ­ while products offering benefits perceived to be solely in the producers' interests ­ such as a reduction in the number of pesticide and herbicide applications, and disease resistant crops ­ got the thumbs down. The greatest public resistance towards the use of GMOs is in livestock. It might mean lower fat content in meat, or increased growth rate, leading to cheaper products, but not all consumers would find these products acceptable, despite their tangible consumer benefits. In the US, producers of soya oil with beneficial health effects enhanced by GM technology, have hit a major hurdle in explaining those benefits to Americans. And UK consumers are likely to be even more sceptical. Turning to scenario three, where Gm foods become mainstream products, IGD thinks that any sea change in public opinion in Britain is at least a decade away. Why? The government and industry must await the results of ongoing research into the safety of GM products and their impact on the environment ­ although, that process may be accelerated if GMOs are deemed acceptable in North America. And what of scenario four? When, if at all, will UK consumers fully embrace GMOs? Not for at least 20 to 40 years, says IGD. By then, consumers may have learned to view GMOs as natural', and have no fears about crop technology. There may be no campaigning pressure groups and no need to label products. Meantime, there's everything to play for and potentially a lot to lose. Because if we have learned anything from the last 12 months, it's that gaining consumer acceptance can only be achieved slowly and failure sticks in the public mind. {{LEADING EDGE }}