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Europeans Say Ignorant About GMO Foods, Crops - Poll

Europeans Say Ignorant About GMO Foods, Crops - Poll
BRUSSELS - Four out of 10 Europeans feel ignorant about genetically modified (GMO) crops and foods and a quarter of them are worried that gene-altered products used in farming will affect the environment, a poll showed on Friday.

In some countries, particularly in Scandinavia, the feeling of not having enough information about GMOs was far higher than average, hitting 66 percent in Finland and 49 percent in Sweden.

"On specific environmental issues, European citizens clearly state they lack information on relatively new environmental issues such as...the use of genetically modified organims in farming," said the poll, conducted by a market research organisation at the behest of the European Commission.

The Eurobarometer survey was conducted in late 2004 and polled nearly 25,000 interviewees in all 25 EU member states.

Only a handful of GMOs may be cultivated in the European Union at present, mostly maize types. These are usually modified to resist insects and other field pests, as well as herbicides.

Recently, there has also been a trickle of import approvals for new GMO food types, some for human consumption and some for use in processing and animal feed, after the EU lifted its six-year blockade on approving new GMO products last year.

Slightly under a quarter of Europeans said they were worried about GMOs used in farming as an environmental issue. This compared with 47 percent of respondents who voiced concern over water pollution and 45 percent over climate change.

The highest concern levels over GMO crops and foods came from Greece and Austria, both at 43 percent. Cyprus came third with 39 percent. Conversely, Malta was the least concerned at just 12 percent, followed by Finland with 14 percent.

Green groups welcomed the poll's findings, saying the Commission should recognise consumer scepticism over GMOs when it processed applications for new GMOs to be used in EU markets.

"These results clearly show that the Commission's stubbornness to force GM crops on the market and in the fields is massively condemned by the EU population," said Eric Gall, GMO campaigner at Greenpeace International's European unit.

Story by Jeremy Smith

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