Strong opposition to GMOs in West Asia and North Africa, survey shows (28/9/2005)

Consumer Unease Over Genetically Modified Food
Bername (Malaysian Nationa News Agency)
28 September 2005

PETALING JAYA, Sept 28 (Bernama) -- The agriculture industry should take advantage of the present situation concerning consumer unease over genetically modified (GM) food production, especially in West Asia and North Africa.

A survey undertaken during 2003 and 2004 showed that the public in the two regions were strongly opposed to GM food.

The survey was carried out in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 1,000 participants, representing the North African and West Asian regions.

The survey questionnaire involved questions on awareness and knowledge of GM food, willingness to consume and willingness to pay to avoid GM food.

Palm oil is GM-free, but most of other oil crops such as soy bean, corn and cotton are GM edible oils.

The survey results were compiled in the proceedings at the International Palm Oil Congress 2005 for agriculture, biotechnology and sustainability, which was one of the five sub-conferences being held here today.

The survey methods, conclusions and recommendations were submitted by two researchers from the Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt. They were Ahmed A. Eiobeidy from the Department of Fruit Horticulture and Sherein A. Abou Dawood from the Department of Dairy Science and Technology.

According to the survey, most of the consumers believed that they were consuming GM food.

It said that since most countries in the Middle East and North Africa depend largely on imported foods, it is difficult to avoid importing GM food products.

"Hence, establishing regulations for GM food could ease food scares in the area," the survey said in its recommendations.

"Furthermore, the role food inspector agencies should be improved. In addition, verifiable information on GM food should be disseminated in ordered to mitigate impact of unduly negative anti-biotech information being distributed by consumer and other non-governmental organisations in Europe," it said.

The survey also said that transparent communication by policy-makers and other stakeholders was essential to address consumers' concerns over GM food safety.

"Mandatory labelling system should be taken into considerations. Labels should depend on the certainty of the ingredient identity. The actual ability of the supply chain to provide high levels of integrity in the segregation process will increase the trust in labelling system," it added.

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