Dramatic change as two-thirds now support GM crop testing

 

Public opinion appears to be shifting in favour of the development of genetically-modified crops, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent.

Asked whether the Government should encourage experiments on GM crops so that farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides they use, 64 per cent of the public agreed and 27 per cent disagreed, while 9 per cent replied "don't know".

There was a significant "gender gap", with women more cautious about the trials than men. While 70 per cent of men believe that such experiments should be encouraged, only 58 per cent of women agree.

However, there were few differences by age, social class or parts of the country. Liberal Democrat ministers believe many of their party members might be hostile to a big push on GM foods. But there is little sign of widespread opposition among party supporters, whose views are in line with Conservative and Labour voters.

The overall findings are a boost to scientists who hope a more "softly, softly" approach to the development of GM crops in Britain will gradually win over a sceptical public. In the 1990s, there was controversy over what were dubbed "Frankenstein foods", and strong public opposition to multinational firms such as Monsanto.

Anti-GM protestors have sabotaged crop trials in Britain in recent years by digging up fields, but a peaceful demonstration was held in May at the Rothamsted Research Institute in Hertfordshire, where genetically-modified wheat is being grown. In the government-funded experiment, the crop has been modified so it gives off an odour not detectable by humans which deters greenfly and blackfly and could reduce the need for pesticides.

No GM crops are grown commercially in Britain, but imported GM commodities such as soya are used mainly for animal feed, and to a lesser extent in some foods.

Supporters believe GM crops could play a vital role in tackling global food shortages and rising prices. In 2011, they were grown by 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries on 160 million hectares – an 8 per cent rise on the previous year.

Opponents claim the European Union, which licenses the commercial use of GM products, is preparing to bring genetically-modified animals to the European market because it is drawing up safety guidelines.

Pete Riley, campaign director of GM Freeze, said: "Why has the European Commission decided to spend money on this when times are so hard? European consumers have already rejected GM food, so why would parents want to feed their families on meat, fish and milk from GM animals, especially as the production of GM animals will raise additional ethical concerns?"

Anti-GM campaigners have criticised Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and his wife Melinda for using their foundation to fund a £6.4m project to develop GM crops at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before