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Do European consumers buy GMO foods?

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Another angle on consumer attitude to GM food

There is mounting evidence that there is opposition to genetically modified (GM) food, particularly by European consumers. A European project undertook a comprehensive survey to find out the real attitude towards GM foods on the supermarket shelf.

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Following the 2004 legislation whereby it is mandatory to label GM foods, consumers would be aware what they are offered for their shopping basket. What they actually buy can then be compared with attitudes shown in surveys. The EU-funded project 'Do European consumers buy GMO foods?' (Consumerchoice) conducted a survey in 10 European countries to determine whether shoppers would actually buy foods labelled as GM. Consumerchoice also carried out additional surveys in the United Kingdom and the United States to ascertain the public's opinions regarding unlabelled presence of GM products in foods. The project left no stone unturned as far as research was concerned. Data was collected from store managers, focus groups and shoppers. Visits to stores recorded presence of GM foods on sale. As regards airing in media, analysis of frequency of GM content of articles and supporting background knowledge broadcast in the various countries provided extensive information. In supermarkets, willingness to discuss stocked GM foods varied with the chain and the country. Consumers generally did not avoid GM products although when questioned, the downsides of GM were uppermost in their minds rather than the benefits. Overall, it seemed likely that with future global constraints on food supply due to climate and population dynamics, GM foods may become more acceptable in consumers' eyes. Consumer behaviour regarding GM products seemed to be down to availability more than any other factor. The comprehensive Consumerchoice investigations have cast light on some misconceptions regarding GM foods. As such, data on shoppers and retail outlets will be able to guide policy on combining GM with sustainable food supply.

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