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Press release

GMOS AND BSE - THE EUROPEANS’ VIEW

European citizens have become increasingly wary of food issues. They are still unsure about the danger of GMOs but are quite convinced that BSE harms mankind. The bottom line with regard to GMOs is citizens’ choice, whereas the need in terms of BSE is to receive more and better information.

 'IS GMO BASED FOOD DANGEROUS ?'

Quite a substantial proportion of citizens surveyed (56.5%) are of the opinion that GMO based food is dangerous, yet a significant percentage (26.5%) do not have an opinion. It is interesting to note that if a comparison is made between those who claim that they are informed on the issue and those who claim ignorance, 59.9% of the former believe that GMOs are dangerous as opposed to 53.2% of the latter. Over half of those surveyed (54.8%) believe that GMOs food presented some sort of danger. Interestingly; 23.1% of Dutch and 24.3% of Portuguese were the highest of the opinion that they in fact do not present danger.

'I WANT TO HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOSE WHEN IT COMES TO GMOs'

European citizens overwhelmingly believe that it is their right to choose when it comes to GMOs (94.6%). The desire to know more about the food before eating it and the belief that GMOs should only be introduced if it is scientifically proven that they are harmless also scores very highly (85.9% and 85.8% respectively). Acceptance of GMOs is low as 70.9% stated that they do not want this type of food. With regard to perception in the media, one third (33.1%) of those interviewed are of the opinion that the dangers have been exaggerated by the media, whereas 44.3% think the opposite. The belief that the dangers have been exaggerated is most supported by the Greeks (51.8%), the British (43.9%) and the Danes (41.8%).

'MAD COW DISEASE : A RISK TO MANKIND'

When it comes to mad cow disease (BSE), Europeans are quite pessimistic. 78.3% believe that it will pose some sort of risk to mankind. This proportion is even higher among those who have pursued lengthy studies or who have a high level of knowledge. European citizens are of the opinion that the agri-food industry is responsible (74.3%) for this problem. Next in order of blame come politicians (68.6%) and farmers (59.1%), with scientists (50.6%) at the bottom of the list. It is significant that 44.6% of those questioned believe that they did not have enough information to come to a conclusion on this matter.

'WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?'

The future of BSE should lie in the hands of scientists according to the majority of European citizens. 89% believe that scientists should keep us better informed about the possible hazards of certain scientific or technological advances, and 85.9% are of the opinion that they ought to communicate their scientific knowledge better. A significant proportion also believe that industry should be better regulated in order to avoid such scares.

These statistics are the results of interviews carried out with 16000 citizens from the 15 EU Member States at the initiative of the European Commission DG Research. The full survey is published in the December EUROBAROMETER report 'Europeans, Science and Technology'. All results, as well as the new Commission Action Plan 'Science and Society',
can be consulted at:
http://ec.europa.eu/research/press/2001/pr0612en.html  

For further information and the facilitation of interviews, please contact: 
Michel Claessens,
 
Information and Communication Unit, 
DG Research 
Tel: +32-2-295.99.71 Fax:+32-2-295.82.20  
E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

              

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