April 2, 2015
A couple of months ago news outlets in the U.S. reported that a majority of Americans is highly concerned about “foods containing DNA” (Food Demand Survey 2015). This is indeed quite concerning. After all, only EVERY food on this planet contains DNA. The misinformation is scary and one could wonder if it is the same in Europe. Are Europeans gene’ophobic?
Well to tell you the truth, it is actually better than one would think. Unfortunately there are no studies about our acceptance of DNA in food, but there is some interesting data on the position of Europeans towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Most recent figures show that levels of acceptance and of opposition towards GMOs in Europe have changed quite substantially. The majority of citizens does not feel strongly about the technology and it is a rather small and very vocal minority which is really opposed to it. Our buying behaviour regarding genetically modified foods is not gene’ophobic either: when given the choice, people buy it. It is as simple as that.
However, what often comes back in the surveys is that there is a general lack of information about the scientifically proven safety of GM food. What is often missing in the debate is facts. Education on science. We need clear leadership and risk communication by public authorities and the EU decision-makers. Without it, unfounded and incorrect prejudice and ridiculous fears will continue to thrive, let it be on DNA or GMOs.
I think we would all greatly benefit from the European and national institutions stepping up communication around science and helping raise the level of trust of EU citizens towards the products that are already part of our daily lives: after all, we are wearing clothes made from GM cotton, and our fridges are full of foods derived from animals fed with GM crops, whether it is meat, milk or eggs.
Someone said food paranoia? This info graphic shows that we are more rational than they would all like us to think.