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New survey shows Australians wary of genetically modified foods

Recent survey data from Australian Opinion Research shows that only 16% of Australians believe there is no risk attached to eating GMO foods compared with more than half who don’t believe that statement. The remainder say they either don’t know or don’t want to know. Further, 43% believe there is plenty of evidence emerging that GMO foods are harmful to humans. These percentages differ very little by age of respondent.

The data comes from a large survey of the attitudes and opinions conducted online with a representative cross section of more than 5000 Australians 18+ by longstanding opinion researchers, Australian Opinion Research.1 It supports findings from a recent survey in the UK conducted by Barclays Bank which shows that only 21% of the UK public support genetically engineered food and that less than half of UK farmers believe GM technology is a good innovation with only 16% of them actually wanting to eat it. And in line with Australian Opinion Research data 43% of the public stated they were “completely against it” which in itself supported other research conducted in that country.

There appears to be genuine justification for caution with major biotech giant, Syngenta being criminally charged with denying that its GM corn kills livestock during a civil court case in 2007. According to ISIS Report 13/06/12, Syngenta’s Bt 176 corn expresses a Bt toxin and a gene conferring resistance to the herbicide glyphosate (best known as Roundup). However, after eating the corn, dairy cows owned by a German farmer participating in the trial, fell sick and died. Although the farmer was paid partial compensation, the company denied liability and is charged with covering up information regarding the possible effects of their product.

Although many people are now wary of GMO’s which are restricted in Europe and banned in several countries, the Australian Government’s Office of Gene Technology Regulator has issued licences for trials on GM wheat varieties in NSW, SA, WA, Victoria and ACT despite rejection of similar trials in Canada and the USA due to market rejection and fears of contamination of non GMO varieties. Wheat is Australia’s largest export agri-commodity valued at around $7.5 billion annually.

Only 16% of Australians 18+ believe there is no risk attached to eating GMO foods

43% of Australians believe that there is plenty of evidence emerging that GMO's are harmful to humans

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