Elaine Watson
An exclusive survey conducted for The Grocer by Nunwood Consulting Omnibus reveals consumers are still in the dark about GM technology.
Just over half (58%) of 1,000 respondents questioned said they wouldn't buy genetically modified food.
A third (33%) said they would buy it, and the rest did not know.
However a whopping 74% said they didn't have enough information to make an informed decision.
While the pro-GM lobby heralded the 33% yes vote as extremely encouraging, given negative media coverage, opponents such as Greenpeace and the Soil Association claimed the results merely proved the strength of public opposition to GM technology.
Although the government has announced a series of public debates to thrash out the issues, said a Greenpeace spokesman, it only has until June to publish the findings, leaving a "ludicrously short" period of time to plan and conduct the debates in the intervening period. Tensions between the pro and anti lobby were at an all-time high this week following the publication of a Soil Association report claiming genetically modified crops had cost the US economy $12bn in farm subsidies, lower crop prices, loss of major export orders and product recalls since 1999.
Contrary to popular belief, claimed the report, GM crops also encourage greater use of herbicides and deliver lower yields.
The findings were immediately rubbished by biotech groups on the grounds of simple economics.
If there was no commercial benefit, no one would buy GM seeds, said a spokesman from Bayer Crop Science.
"Farmers aren't stupid. If it's really costing you more, there's no market for it and you are losing yield, you wouldn't buy it.
"But farmers are still growing GM. There must be a reason for that."
Moreover, figures from the US National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy show that pesticide use had decreased while yields had gone up where farmers had used GM crops during 2001.
The firm is still investigating allegations that honey from beehives in Fife had been contaminated by unspecified GM material from a GM crop site almost two miles away.
>> p44 GM survey

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