Positive GM survey backs Bill Gates' view

By Freddie Dawson and Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm, Genetic engineering, Genetically modified food

Bill Gates thinks GM has a role to play in remedying world hunger. A growing number of young Britons appear to agree with him.
Bill Gates thinks GM has a role to play in remedying world hunger. A growing number of young Britons appear to agree with him.
A new survey reporting positive views about genetically modified (GM) foods, coupled with recent comments from billionaire philanthropist and IT guru Bill Gates reveal attitudes towards the controversial technology are changing, claims the Crop Protection Association (CPA).

The survey revealed that “the public is willing to accept the production of GM foods in certain applications”,​ according to the British Science Association, which commissioned the report. Most consumers backed more GM research designed to improve crop nutrition or to reduce reliance on pesticides and fertilisers.

But most neither agreed nor disagreed with the view that GM technology in general should be encouraged.

Dominic Dyer, CPA chief executive, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the survey results, plus Gates’ recent support for GM, were evidence of consumers viewing GM more favourably than previously.

Starvation

In January Gates told the BBC Radio 4’s Today​ programme that GM techniques had a place alongside more conventional methods, particularly if they prevented many people dying of starvation.

He said: “Some of the work we​ [The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] are doing to create new seeds involves GM techniques, but a lot of it does not. What we end up with is a set of products with which African countries can decide what they want to use.

Dyer accounted for the alleged shift in perception towards GM by claiming that people under the age of 25 are more technologically savvy and supportive of research and innovation than previous generations.

Also, they were too young to remember the controversy surrounding the environmental impact of GM, which  raged 10 –15 years ago GMS’s alleged environmental impact, he said. “If anything, the survey downplayed the change in consumer perceptions, especially among the younger generation.”

Agricultural research organisation the Rothamsted Research Institute (RRI) also welcomed the survey results. Professor Maurice Moloney, RRI chief executive, said:“These data are extremely helpful in assessing the evolving view of the general public to GM technology and products.”

He added: “The survey suggests that the UK public is interested in the end uses and real benefits of GM technology, rather than harbouring blanket scepticism.”

Inaccurate

But campaign group GM Freeze said the survey presented an “inaccurate”​ view ofconsumers GM opinions. It also accused BSA of “…failing to provide respondents with the full facts about the experimental crops”.

“The questions used in the poll put a very positive spin on GM crops, include some basic factual errors and ignore problems and scientific uncertainty about their efficacy,”said a spokesman. For example, questions on growing herbicide-resistant beets did not mention that its use in the Americas led to herbicide-resistant“superweeds”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Soil Association (SA) said that GM had been discredited and the debate had moved on. It was pointless to restart a debate from 10 years ago and “a real throwback to focus on GM”,​ said Dr Tom MacMillan, SA director of innovation.

Researchers should focus on agro-ecological and organic approaches to meet new ways of meeting challenges facing the food supply chain.

Related topics: NPD

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2 comments

Bill Gates survey.....

Posted by Georgia,

People who are awake know that GMO foods are able to change the DNA of people and put a burden on their kidneys. That's not to mention their toxic pesticide effect, which eventually kills people who consume these products. It does not prevent starvation.

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This is uninformed spin

Posted by A. Adams,

There is a huge amount of public misinformation, misapprehension and plain ignorance about GM crops. So of course a survey that asks the questions in a certain way will received the answers it is looking for in order to put a positive spin on the GM debate, especially if people assume that someone like Bill Gates has done his reading. As far as I can tell, he hasn't.

Only last week at his lecture at the Cambridge University Engineering Department, Dr. Jorgen Randers, Professor of Climate Studies at the Norwegian Business School, made it clear that we have and will continue to have enough food to feed the world - that's not the problem. Poverty and the inability to pay for food is the problem. That won't get any better as large corporations start commoditising food and creating GM seeds in order to gain patents, making production more expensive for farmers everywhere. In developing countries Those farmers' families are often starving while they are forced to invest in GM seeds and industrial methods of production, converting their land to cash crops that feed rich nations and bring big cash to investors gambling with food as commodity.

Industrial agriculture propounded by the GM industry leads to soil degradation, erosion, and loss of fertility. We don't have to create in-built pesticides or select for nutritional value when that is what biodiversity does for us – the same biodiversity being destroyed by the use of GM crops, whose proponents want to remove from farmers the right to share, sell and improve their own varieties. The more diverse the farm, the more nutritious the food.

Extensive studies have been done by the likes of sustainability advocate and physicist Dr. Vandana Shiva at Navdanya International (vandanashiva.org), who was one of the keynote speakers at the same Cambridge University Department of Engineering's 10th annual sustainability lectures this very month.

It's GM, industrial agriculture and the commoditisation of our food supply that is "starving the poor". To pretend otherwise is highly cynical.

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