Media Backgrounder What do Australians think about GM foods and crops

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					Media Backgrounder

8 July 2002                                                                                02/127

What do Australians think about GM foods and crops?
A recent survey has revealed that Australian consumers see high potential benefits from genetically
modified foods, despite some concerns, but are looking for more quality information.

The study, conducted by Market Attitude Research Services, in June this year, for the Commonwealth
Government Agency Biotechnology Australia, involved 1,000 telephone interviews on biotechnology-
related issues.

Manager of Biotechnology Australia's Public Awareness Program, Mr Craig Cormick, said that the public
has a high awareness of food biotechnology and that they are interested in the debate about GM foods and

“Asking people about the perceived benefits of GM foods, 75 per cent stated decreased use of pesticides
and chemicals on crops. In addition, 69 per cent believe agricultural land would be more efficiently used
and that higher crop yields would lead to less expensive food,” Mr Cormick said

However, Australians do have concerns about potential risks associated with GM foods. Forty-seven
per cent of respondents identified unknown long-term health risks and 20% of people cited unknown
long-term environmental risks as their main concerns about GM food.

Although a slight majority of the Australian community feel that the risks currently outweigh the
benefits (53%), 43% of people believe that the risks will decrease with time, and 32% believe risks
will not decrease.

“This is fairly consistent with past surveys that show the community attitudes are spread across a wide
spectrum and fairly balanced both for and against GM foods.”

Another strong finding of the survey is that 73% of people believe they require more information
about gene technology. “This is another recurrent finding , that there is currently not enough quality
information available about the issue of GM foods and crops,” said Mr Cormick.

Mr Cormick added that “While the community is searching for more information about gene
technology, biased information, either strongly for, or strongly against – often relying on wild and
sensational claims - will help no-one. This doesn’t align with community needs, as most people are
seeking factual and balanced information, from a number of trusted different sources.”

“According to these survey results, people with questions about GM foods expect to get this sort of
information from their doctors and medical practitioners. The other way people find information about
GM foods is through searching the internet,” Mr Cormick said.

For further information contact:
Craig Cormick
Manager of Public Awareness
Biotechnology Australia
Ph: 0418-963 914


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