Poll reveals public doesn't trust Labour on GM food
Sunday 23 May 1999
A private poll carried out by Mori for ministers, found only 35 per cent of people trust the Government to make biotechnology decisions on their behalf. It also found only 1 per cent believed that genetically modified food was good for society.
The Government is seen as less trustworthy than environmental and consumer groups, vets and doctors when it comes to making decisions on the issue.
Doctors, who last week called for a moratorium on planting GM crops commercially, are viewed as most trustworthy. The poll shows that the public also does not believe the Government will "provide honest and balanced information about biological developments and their regulations". Only 1 per cent thought GM food would bring benefits to human health.
The results of the public consultation are particularly embarrassing because of the involvement of the People's Panel - the Cabinet Office's 5,000-strong "focus group" used to test ideas. The five-month consultation involved a poll of more than 1,000 people and interviews and workshops around Britain.
Details of the polling emerged at the same time as evidence showing just how committed the Government is to GM crops, despite public disquiet. A confidential document from the office of minister Jack Cunningham reveals that it is trying to recruit eminent scientists to trail its key public- relations messages.
Tim Yeo, Conservative agriculture spokesman, said that the poll findings showed that the Government, which on Friday launched a bullish defence of GM food, was deliberately ignoring public concerns.
"This is very out of character for the Government, which is usually led by public opinion," said Mr Yeo. "This must raise further alarming questions about why they are pursuing this pro-GM stance."
n Earlier this month an influential committee of 140 Labour MPs told Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, that they were worried by plans to allow GM ingredients in products marked GM-free.
European governments are thinking of letting GM-free products contain up to 2 per cent of GM ingredients.
"Concern was expressed that food labelled as GM-free could in future have GM food in it," said Geraint Davies, chairman of the backbench committee and Labour MP for Croydon Central. "There is a problem that if these allowances are made there may come a time when there is no GM-free food at all."
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