Re: Acceptance of GM food in Australia? (26/9/2007)

Hello GM Watch

I would like to add to Fran's excellent work (below). The following comes from the Institute of Health and Environmental Research's (of which I am a Director) submission to the three States in Australia that are undertaking a review of their moratoria against growing GM crops on a commerical scale.


In order to try and diffuse the substantial problem of consumer resistance in the lead-up to reviews of GM crop moratoria in three States, pro-GM campaigners have suggested that a recent survey by Biotechnology Australia shows that this resistance to GM foods is lessening in Australia. However, this is a serious misrepresentation, as questions in the survey were in fact about how valuable certain objectives of genetic modification may be to consumers such as making the food healthier, last longer and be cheaper; or have benefits to the environment or farmers such as making plants that were drought or frost tolerant or mature more quickly. Not only are none of these commercial realities, the questions asked do not measure consumer resistance. The main question measuring consumer resistance to eating GM crops, being: "How likely are you to eat any GM food?" was not asked in the Biotechnology Australia survey this year. The last time it was asked, in 2006, 54% of those surveyed stated that they were unlikely to very unlikely to eat any GM food, a rise from 45% in 2001 and 50% in 2003. Consumer resistance to GM foods therefore increased in Australia; by a factor of 22% in that five year period. One of the reasons for prohibiting the growth of GM crops under the GM Crops Management Act was because of consumer resistance. The consecutive results of these surveys indicate that consumer resistance to GM crops has increased, not eased, while the Act has been in operation. In the 2006 survey, even for heavily refined foods, such as cooking oils, that even had a health claim on them, such as "contain less cholesterol" had considerable consumer resistance. Almost half (44%) still stated that they were unlikely to very unlikely to eat them. This finding is particularly pertinent to GM canola, as canola primarily enters the human food supply as oil. It should be noted that currently-available varieties of GM canola do not have such a health claim on them so rejection should be even higher.

Dr Judy Carman BSc (Hons) PHD MPH
Institute of Health and Environmental Research
PO Box 155
Kensington Park SA 5068

Acceptance of GM food in Australia? (24/9/2007)

NOTE: In the Guardian article that Fran Murrell refers to in her comments below, we're told that Julian Little, chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) - a PR front for the big GM firms, 'pointed to Australia as a place where public opinion on GM technology was turned around. "There's a country that has gone through the moratoriums, has gone through the we're-not-sure, the NGOs have been in there and caused mayhem, and come out the other end saying this is a useful technology and the public support it." (Return of GM, The Guardian, 16 September 2007))

For more on the ABC

Dear GM Watch

I would like to comment on the statement in the following article that public opposition to GM crops has turned around.

Public opinion in Australia has certainly not changed to support of GM crops and food as stated in this article. What is happening is that 4 states are reviewing their ban on growing GM canola. This is supported by many in farming organisations and several members of government. Whether either are following the wishes of their constituents is open to intense doubt.

Many farmers do not belong to the farming organisations. Many who are members do not agree with the decisions made within these organisations. Similarly politicians have not consulted their constituents. In no arena are there rigourous evidence based discussions. Most Australians have no idea that the ban on growing GM canola is about to expire or how this will mean the inevitable contamination of the food chain and the environment.

A recent survey purported to show the majority of people interviewed were supportive of GM food. However it is instructive to read the questions asked and then ponder if this is an example of push polling

In the recent Biotechnology Australia survey participants were asked the following questions:

Q4. Now I'm going to ask you about different objectives of genetically modifying plants to produce food. I'd like you to tell me how valuable you feel these objectives are to individuals or society. Please tell me whether you think these objectives are very valuable, somewhat valuable, not very valuable or not at all valuable. So what about genetically modifying plants…

(i) to make the food healthier

(ii) to make the food last longer

(iii) to make the plants herbicide tolerant

(iv) to make the plants pest resistant

(v) to make the plants frost resistant

(vi) to make the plants mature more quickly

(vii) to make plants drought resistant

(viii) to make the food cheaper

(With the exception of herbicide tolerance and limited success with pest resistance - none of these crops are a commercial reality)

Q6. Thinking about the environmental problems that society currently faces, would you be in favour of…

1) Using only natural or traditional methods of agriculture and environmental management OR

2) Pursuing only technologies made available through advances in gene technology OR

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