ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

17 March 2003


Most EU citizens skeptical about food-related biotechnology: survey Source - Xinhua News Agency (Eng)

Saturday, March 15, 2003  03:19
BRUSSELS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- While most citizens of the European Union (EU) are in favor of medical applications of biotechnology, they are still skeptical about agricultural and food-related biotech, a survey shows.

The survey, published by the European Commission here Friday, indicated that combined with an uncertain legal situation and doubts on future commercial markets, this is leading to a sharp decrease in biotech research in Europe.

The Eurobarometer, named "Europeans and Biotechnology 2002", revealed that 44 percent of those polled believe that biotechnology will improve their quality of life while 17 percent people oppose the view.

There is a lack of support for agricultural and food applications, contrasting with a strong backing for medical uses. This is believed to be a factor leading to a sharp decrease in EU' s biotech research and development.

According to an EU study on scientific and technological developments in genetically modified plants, the number of genetically modified organisms (GMO) field trial applications in the EU has dropped 76 percent since 1998. GMO research has also been seriously undermined.

About 39 percent of the respondents have canceled their research and development projects on GMOs over the last four years.

Opinions differ greatly when asked about medical or industrial applications of biotechnology compared to agri-food. Genetic testing for inherited diseases and cloning human cells and tissues are supported in all EU member states.

Xenotransplantation, however, which involves the use of transgenic animals to produce organs to be transplanted in human beings, is perceived to be both moderately useful and moderately risky. The use of genetically modified enzymes to produce environmentally friendly washing powders is well perceived and supported by a majority of Europeans.

Most Europeans do not support GM foods, considering them of little value and dangerous for society. Overall support for GM foods is seen only in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Finland.

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