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Europeans wary of GMO foods

Despite efforts from biotechnology companies such as Monsanto to promote GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods, a new poll announced November 12 shows that as many as 95 percent of European respondents rate GMO foods as potentially unsafe and lacking real benefits.

The European Commission survey used to determine consumer attitudes toward GMOs has seen a downward trend in GMO popularity over the last 15 years. Even Spain, which has in the past been more in favor of GMOs, saw a drop in support by 20 percent in the last five years.

The study found that 70 percent of Europeans believe GMOs are fundamentally unnatural, while nearly 60 percent believe GMOS are a threat to the health of themselves and their families. Fifty-eight percent believe GMOs are not safe for future generations.

A recent poll by The Economist in the US showed public opinion there is meeting that of Europeans, with 62 percent of respondents indicating skeptism towards GMOs. However, government regulation in the US is less stringent and many GMO products aren't labeled at all, which may affect consumer attitudes.

Want to avoid GMO foods? While labeling varies on where you live, there are some basic rules of thumb in avoiding GM products that are applicable worldwide:

Avoid processed foods likely to be made with ingredients from the "Big Four" GM crops: corn, soy, canola (for rapeseed oil), and cotton (for cottonseed oil).

Avoid sugar unless it's 100 percent cane sugar: GM beet sugar is one of the latest additions to the food supply; avoid aspartame, an artificial sweetener derived from GM organisms.

Look at what is (or isn't) on the labels: If a product is not labeled as being GMO-free, most likely it contains some GM ingredients.

Buy organic: Genetically modified crops and ingredients are banned under organic standards. In multi-ingredient organic products there is a non-organic allowance of not more then 5% but this is only from a very restricted list of things that can't be sourced organically, such as water and salt, all of which are non-GM. Although most of the main supermarkets chains have banned GM ingredients from their own-label products this ban on GM does not extend to the feed given to their livestock. Nearly all the non-organic milk, dairy products and pork in UK supermarkets are being produced from animals fed on GM crops, which means most consumers are unwittingly eating food produced from GM crops everyday.

To access more information on the new European poll: http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/12660-eurobarometer-more-europeans-opposed-to-gm-food

There are plenty of websites with detailed information on GMO foods and genetic engineering, some of which also provide downloadable shopping guides for consumers. Some of them include: