Now the European Union has new regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), GM plants will be grown, harvested, and processed in Member States. The Union has already decided on a new legal framework for the labelling of GMOs and GMO food and feed products. Confronted with these labels, European consumers will have questions, especially regarding product safety. With 14 participants from six countries and an international group of local correspondents, the Specific Support Action GMOCOMPASS aims to establish a European consumeroriented website (www.gmo-compass.org) providing easy-to-understand information on the safety of GMOs and GMO products.
PLUGGING THE INFORMATION GAP
European consumers expect safe, high-quality foods. However, they seem to doubt that GMO products can fulfil this requirement. Although important research findings and safety-assessment summaries about GMOs are publicly available, they are written by and for experts and so tend to be poorly understood outside the scientific community. In the lay public, safety concerns evoke a much larger reaction than sciencebased explanations. This can intensify a feeling of uncertainty. Information about GMOs needs to be better adapted to consumers' expectations, needs, interests, and knowledge. That is where GMO-COMPASS comes into play. The 24-month project will present sciencebased information for public discussion on the safety of GMO products and how they are approved within the Community.
TRUST THROUGH TRANSPARENCY
One of the tenets of the EU's food policy is that the consumer should be able to make buying decisions which are based on adequate information. For scientific knowledge to contribute to these decisions, it has to be easily comprehensible and traceable - to enable informed decisions. GMO-COMPASS will create an internet-based platform providing a venue for a broad and open discussion of these questions. The group of local correspondents will also transfer contents of the website in their native languages and integrate them into local websites to insure an EU-wide spread.
The project will develop, implement and test communication and marketing strategies (off-line and online), such as content cooperation with consumer and commercial food-related websites and consumer websites on the national level. The website will offer news, interviews, fact sheets, and a question-andanswer forum, combined with a virtual platform for open dialogue. Moderated online discussions among consumers, scientific experts and stakeholders will address risk perception and consumer expectations on food quality and the safety of GMOs. Discussion will be closely linked to information on the website. There will be an advisory board of experts from diverse disciplines and nationalities and a network of local correspondents who will report about the GMO debate in their own countries. By incorporating the views of non-scientists and groups with counter-expertise should enable the project team to guarantee balanced reporting and debate.
INCREASING PUBLIC DIALOGUE
GMO-COMPASS answers a demand - no comparable websites are available in Europe - by complementing EU institutions' communication efforts as well as the websites of lobby groups, scientific institutions and consumer organisations. The project supports important goals in the European Commission's strategy for consumer information - transparency regarding safety evaluations of GMOs, respect for the precautionary principle, and gaining public trust. It will provide a stronger presence and awareness of scientific knowledge in the public debate about GMO-food safety and will facilitate dialogue between consumers, scientific experts and stakeholders.
List of Partners
- Genius - Science + Communication (Germany)
- Transgen (Germany)
- T▄VNORD Ensys Hannover & Co (Germany)
- Several subcontractors in different EU countries Great Britain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark
- Full title:
- GMO communication and safety evaluation platform
- Contract n░:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Kristina Sinemus and Christoph L÷wer
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Maurice Lex,
- EU contribution:
- € 460,020
- Specific Support Action