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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Biased Questions Undermine British Science Association GM Food Poll

Immediate release (8 Mar 2012)

Calls to: Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze says the questions in the British Association for Science (BAS) GM opinion poll are inaccurate and fail to provide respondents with the full facts about the experimental crops. [1]

The BAS questions imply that Golden Rice genetically modified to produce beta carotene can tackle vitamin A deficiency, but this is not proven and the crop has not received food safety approvals yet. There are a number of concerns including how to prevent people who are not vitamin deficient from consuming too much beta carotene, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.

In addition respondents are provided with no information about alternatives to GM Golden Rice. Many experts are concerned that concentration on enhancement of vitamin A intake ignores shortages of other nutrients. They recommend instead the introduction of a balanced diet, including beta carotene rich green vegetables and increasing fat and protein.

GM Freeze also questions the information given on:

  • GM aphid repelling hormones in wheat: this fails to mention that natural enemies can control aphids and that aphids may fail to react to the GM hormone in a short space of time causing the GM crop may fail to work.
  • Extending the shelf life of cantaloupe melons: this may affect vitamin content.
  • GM sugar beet: this ignores that fact that the UK government rejected herbicide tolerant beet in 2004 because it harmed farmland wildlife, as well as ignoring the problems caused by the herbicide resistant superweeds sweeping the US and South America in GM herbicide tolerant soya cotton and maize.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

Overall the poll results show the majority of people are not supportive of a headlong rush for GM crops, so little has changed in the last decade.

The questions used in the poll put a very positive spin on GM crops, include some basic factual errors and ignore problems and scientific uncertainty about their efficacy. We would have expected something tighter and smarter from the BAS.

Overall GM crops in commercial production in the Americas have failed to deliver all that was promised. Many farmers faced with superweeds caused by growing GM crops – where the only control option is hand pulling – deeply regret taking it up. This technology is first and foremost a means to make profits for global seed and chemical companies.

Scientists need to take a step back and develop technologies and approaches that work with nature rather than trying to change it and manipulate it for short-term profits. Crucially they also need to listen to the public.



[1] British Science Association GM Survey conducted 17-26 February 2012 by Populus.